ERC orders Meralco to start P3.9-B refund in March

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 24 2009 03:42 PM | Updated as of Feb 25 2009 01:43 AM

The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) on Tuesday ordered Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) to return some P3.9 billion to consumers who were overcharged with the company's Currency Exchange Rate Adjustment (CERA) between 2003 and 2006.

In a disclosure to the Philippine Stock Exchange, ERC said Meralco should refund P3.92 billion, or P0.04 per kilowatt hour starting next month. The amount is lower than the original figure of P0.14 per kWh.

"Meralco is hereby authorized to refund the amount of P3,294,922,762.58 equivalent to P0.04 per kWh starting the March 2009 billing cycle until such time that the full amount shall have been refunded," ERC said.

The ERC gave in to Meralco's argument that the company is not in a financial position to complete the refund if the original refund amount is retained. It will take Meralco roughly three years to finish the refund.

"However, the commission is cognizant of the fact that requiring Meralco to refund the amount of P3,294,922,762.58 would result in substantial and tremendous impact on its financial resources. Thus, the commission deems it reasonable to recalculate the amount and period of CERA refund in order to cushion its impact on Meralco's financial viability," ERC said.

The ERC clarified, however, that the commission may issue another order to fast-track the refund process the moment Meralco's financial state improves.

Meanwhile, the National Association of Electricity Consumers for Reform (Nasecore) said the ERC decision only proves that Meralco has already spent the overcollected amount for other purposes.

Nasecore President Pete Ilagan said the Meralco should refund the entire P3.9 billion since the money belongs to the consumers in the first place. Ilagan added that the ERC must investigate as to where Meralco spent the money.

However, ERC Executive Director Francis Juan explained that Meralco has the right to spend its collection to projects it deemed important for the company's operations before the commission found out that there was overcharging. With a report from Alvin Elchico, ABS-CBN News