Utilities urged to extend policy on disconnection

Senator Win Gatchalian on Thursday urged the Energy Regulatory Commission and distribution utilities, such as Meralco, to heed the call of the public to further extend the “no disconnection” policy for low-income consumers at least until the end of the government-imposed General Community Quarantine.

Meralco’s “no disconnection” policy was originally set to end on December 31 but was extended to January 31, 2021. 

The policy, which covers households consuming 200 kilowatt hours per month and below, benefits over three million of its customers.

“Except for a few, who are offering essential goods and services, the majority of businesses are not operating in their full capacity and unemployment remains to be a problem. Everyone is still struggling financially,” Gatchalian said.

The November 2020 nationwide survey on COVID-19 and its impact on the Filipinos conducted by Pulse Asia Research Inc. showed that 58 percent of the 2,400 surveyed either lost their job or source of income. The hardest-hit are those belonging to Class D and E as 58 percent and 64 percent of them respectively ended up having no means of livelihood. 

More than half of the respondents from Mindanao or 57 percent experienced a reduction in salary or income while 53 percent of those from Class A, B and C nationwide also experienced losing a job or source of income last year.

The Philippine Statistics Authority showed that as of October last year, the unemployed Filipinos reached 3.8 million compared to the previous year’s 2.1 million.

Meanwhile, Senator Risa Hontiveros said the government, particularly the Department of Energy and the Energy Regulatory Commissions, must address the potentially onerous surcharges passed on to consumers, which drive up monthly power costs.

“There must be a comprehensive review of these surcharges being shouldered by consumers,” she said.

“One of these is the controversial 15 percent weighted average cost of capital given by the ERC for the State Grid of China and their local partners in the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines. Halos doble ito sa 8 percent average global standard in terms of transmission rate,” Hontiveros said. 

Hontiveros also believes that power suppliers and the NGCP must share the burden of utmost sacrifice especially when the economy is gearing towards recovery. 

“Perhaps our power firms should share a bigger part of the burden since they continue to enjoy higher return on investment and remain profitable even during the pandemic,” she said.

Topics: Energy Regulatory Commission , Meralco , COVID-19 , National Grid Corporation of the Philippines , Department of Energy
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