Power firms told to explain disallowed charges
MANILA, Philippines — The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) has asked power distributors and electricity cooperatives to explain why they continued to collect universal and environmental charges although the agency had already suspended their collection amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
ERC Chair Agnes Devanadera said the ERC wrote power distributors to order them to explain why they should not be fined for their violations.
“I cannot say how much fine we would impose because we are still waiting for a response to our order for them to explain why, in our initial evaluation, they had violated our advisories,” Devanadera said at the government’s online briefing on Saturday.
The agency had received many complaints and also saw in its review of documents that there were several power distributors that violated ERC orders not to collect the universal charge-environmental charge (UC-EC) and the Feed-In Tariff Allowance, she said.
The ERC suspended the collection of the UC-EC, which is equivalent to P0.0025 per kilowatt-hour (kWh), in May until further notice.
The Fit-All collection was suspended in March to provide economic relief to the majority of electricity consumers.
Earlier, the ERC fined the Manila Electric Company (Meralco) P19 million for its failure to indicate in consumers’ bills that the amounts they were charging were estimated, and for failing to comply with the order to allow installment payments on the power bills.
Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, who heads the Senate energy committee, hailed the ERC order and said it served as a warning to other distribution utilities that they better comply with the ERC directives.
“Efforts to exploit and take advantage of others in a time of crisis and pandemic should be meted the proper punishment,” Gatchalian said in a statement, adding that the fine imposed on Meralco was a small price to pay compared to the confusion and burden it brought to millions of residents, especially to those who only earn just enough for their needs.
He also said that based on the ERC order for Meralco to set to zero the distribution, supply, and metering charges of each of the lifeline consumers whose monthly energy consumption does not exceed 100 kWh for one month cycle of billing, the penalty that would be imposed on the company would amount to nearly P300 million.
According to him, the discount to be provided to all lifeline consumers is estimated to be around P275 million, based on the May 2020 records of the ERC.
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