Bills, loans in the time of COVID-19: What it means to skip a month of payments

Jessica Fenol and Joel Guinto, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 03 2020 02:59 PM

A security guard scans the temperature of clients observing social distancing as they line up to enter the bank in Quezon City, March 20, 2020 on Day 6 of the lockdown in Metro Manila. Fernando G. Sepe Jr., ABS-CBN News

MANILA -- Locked down for at least a month, millions of Filipinos are getting a 30-day reprieve on some monthly payments to help them cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Filipinos can "skip one month entirely, with no interest on interest and another fees and charges," Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Benjamin Diokno told ABS-CBN News.

"No. You don’t have to pay double in the next cycle," he said.

The grace period, however, does not extend to the cycle after the quarantine period, the central bank governor said.

"In fact, those who can pay online during the quarantine are encouraged to pay. But you cannot skip payment next month," he said.

The grace period is a postponement, rather than a condonation of loans, said financial adviser Salve Duplito.

"People still need to have a plan because they're still going to pay for it," she told ABS-CBN News.

Where does the 30-day moratorium on payments apply?

Implementing rules of the Philippines coronavirus response law mandated a 30-day moratorium for loan payments with due dates that fall within the enhanced community quarantine period. The lockdown officially started March 17 in Luzon (2 days earlier in Metro Manila) and is scheduled to end on April 12.

The moratorium covers all banks, quasi-banks, non-stock savings and loan associations, credit card issuers and pawnshops.

It also covers financial institutions under the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, Securities and Exchange Commission, Cooperative Development Authority, Government Service Insurance System, Social Security System and Pag-IBIG.

How about credit card penalties?

The Bayanihan to Heal as One Act is "very explicit" that credit card issuers cannot charge late payment fees, finance charges and interest for payments that are due during the lockdown, according to the BSP.

Even before the law, some banks have offered grace periods of up to 90 days.

How about monthly rent?

The 30-day moratorium also applies to residential and commercial rent for micro, small, and medium enterprises as long as the due date falls within the lockdown period, according to Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, spokesman of the coronavirus response task force.

How about power and water?

Manila Electric Co suspended physical meter reading during the lockdown. Bills for the period of March 17 to April 14 will be based on the average for the last 3 months, said its spokesman spokesman Joe Zaldarriaga. The readings will be adjusted to include lockdown period consumption and this will reflect in the next billing cycle.

Maynilad Water Services Inc and Manila Water both gave a 30-day extension for payments due during the lockdown.