Separate, clear bills needed, Meralco told

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian is urging Manila Electric Co., the largest distribution utility, to explain to consumers the sudden surge in their electricity bills for May.

Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate committee on energy, said Meralco was not able to provide consumers with a clear picture of their bills in the enhanced community quarantine period during a Senate hearing.

“We need a separate bill to explain it properly,” Gatchalian said, adding that the separate bill should be applied to all utilities to prevent a bill shock.

He criticized Meralco for failing to provide consumers with clear and sufficient information on their bills, leaving them confused and appalled.

Senator Grace Poe said the public was relying on Meralco to issue detailed electricity billings reflecting actual consumption, which was the only credible basis for the charges consumers must pay.

“The public should not be made to shell out lump-sum payments for unjust estimates or conjectures. The electricity bill should be accurate, fair and clear,” Poe said.  

In the same hearing, Meralco said only less than one percent of residential bills received in May were based on actual meter readings because of strict quarantine measures.

But Gatchalian said “there is no overestimate and underestimate [in the bill] and we don’t know which month you over-estimated or under-estimated the computation of the bill.”

He asked Meralco to immediately come out with a separate sheet stipulating overestimates and underestimates in the electricity bill.

Gatchalian also urged the Energy Regulatory Commission to issue a new advisory that would instruct not only Meralco, but all other distribution utilities as well, to unbundle the exact rates that were charged to consumers during the ECQ period.

Gatchalian also questioned why Meralco did not just waive the P47 convenience fee for online payments at the start of the ECQ.

He said Meralco’s failure to do so gave additional stress to its consumers.

Meanwhile, House Deputy Minority leader and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate and Bayan Muna chairman Neri Colmenares on Monday welcomed the Energy Regulatory Commission's order to Meralco to conduct actual meter readings.

They also called on the ERC and the DOE to break up the Meralco monopoly.

“Many of us suffered electric bill shock when we received our electric bills recently. The order of ERC requiring Meralco to conduct actual meter readings before issuing electric bills is certainly welcome," Colmenares said.

"This practically orders Meralco to withdraw their shockingly high bills that led to public protests. This is the result of the continuing vigilance and protest of consumers."

Topics: Sherwin Gatchalian , Manila Electric Co. , Grace Poe , enhanced community quarantine
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