MANILA – The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) will issue a new advisory directing power utilities to extend a "targeted no disconnection policy" until the end of the year for select group of consumers, the agency’s chair said Wednesday.
Distributors will be directed to extend a "more reasonable" no disconnection policy until the end of the year for clients consuming 200 kWh and below, ERC chair Agnes Devanadera told Teleradyo.
Devanadera said this was in line with the prescription of the Bayanihan to Recover As One Act, which allows statutory deadlines and timelines for the payment of fees to be moved, to ease the burden of consumers still grappling from the impact of COVID-19 crisis.
"I’m sure (this is) very reasonable naman ito na ang non-disconnection policy should be implemented to those who are consuming 200 kWh and below...Yan ang wag natin puputulan (We should not cut their lines)," Devanadera said.
"Ngayon nagkaroon tayo ng Bayanihan 2, ito nga targeted ngayon kung sino ang papaboran ng no disconnection policy (Because of Bayanihan 2, this is now targeted, who should be covered by the no disconnection policy," she added.
The power regulator revealed that it was drafting another advisory on Tuesday when asked by Sen. Risa Hontiveros if they could extend the moratorium in serving disconnection notices to customers with unpaid bills.
“Our people are still reeling from the effects of COVID. Nawalan na ng trabaho, negosyo, baka maputulan pa ng kuryente ngayong Pasko,” Hontiveros said.
With an extended payment arrangement, the power regulator still urged consumers to settle their bills if they have the means.
“Because most of these amounts being collected will have to be used for the payment of their suppliers,” she said.
Government agencies should also not put off paying their bills if they have the budget in order “to help out the industry because the effect is down the line,” she added.
The power regulator earlier allowed the staggered payment of electric bills that had fallen due to quarantine restrictions.
Power utility giant Manila Electric Company (Meralco) also had said it would be “considerate" to its customers who still had unpaid bills by Oct. 31.
Consumers who cannot pay the full amount can approach any Meralco business center, Meralco assistant Vice President for Public Information Joe Zaldarriaga had told Teleradyo, promising that they would deal with disconnections on a "case-by-case" basis.
In response to the new ERC advisory, Zaldarriaga said they would wait for the guidelines.
"We will await ERC guidelines or advisory regarding the Bayanihan act and extension. And we will comply," he said Tuesday.