Senator Sherwin Gatchalian asked the Energy Regulatory Commission and the Department of Energy to include electric bill subsidies in the government’s Social Amelioration Program for affected communities.
Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate energy committee, cited Section 4(x) of the Bayanihan Act where the government could reprogram, reallocate and realign budget to fund measures “that address and respond to the COVID-19 emergency, including social amelioration for affected communities and the recovery of areas, sectors and industries severely affected.”
The government earlier announced some three million poor customers with an electricity consumption of less than 50 kilowatt-hours a month would no longer be charged under the Pantawid Liwanag program of electric cooperatives.
Other private distribution utilities such as Manila Electric Co. are not involved in the said program.
Gatchalian commended the ERC for swiftly acting on his call to undertake measures to protect electricity consumers during the extended enhanced community quarantine including the staggered payment of electricity bills.
ERC issued an advisory on the staggered four-month payment scheme of electricity bills after Gatchalian wrote the commission asking to help ease the burden of affected consumers, whose payables are piling up with the extension of due dates.
Meanwhile, Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi signed a memorandum directing power sector participants, including private and public corporations, local government units and consumers to continue implementing and adhering to the guidelines on the deferment of payments of obligations and dues.
“We at the Department of Energy will continue to adopt all necessary measures to help our community partners, stakeholders, and power consumers during and after the ECQ. Having access to power services is extremely critical during this national public health emergency, so we hope that these guidelines will allay at least some of the worries of the members of the energy family,” Cusi said.
The memorandum, issued on April 16, provides for a grace period for the payment of consumers’ electricity bills without interests, penalties, fees, and charges falling within the initial and extended ECQ period.
The payments will be amortized in four equal installments, payable in the first four months following the end of the ECQ.
It also includes the provision of a similar grace period for all public and private power sector corporations on the payments and obligations due, universal charges, total trading amounts and other relevant charges falling within the original and extended ECQ period.