Extension of ‘no disconnection’ policy on electricity services cheered, jeered
A senator lauded President Duterte’s green light for an extension of the “no disconnection” policy on electricity services for low-income households while a party-list representative said this undermined the stability of the power industry as well as other businesses.
Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate committee on energy, said in a statement the extension gave “lifeline” customers—those that enjoy subsidies from other electricity consumers—of distribution utilities a timely and much-needed relief.
The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) sets the lifeline threshold depending on the distributor. For Meralco, lifeline customers are those billed for a monthly consumption of no more than 100 kilowatt-hours.
Gatchalian earlier called on the ERC and distributors to extend the policy, which lapsed last Dec. 31 but which utilities like the Manila Electric Co. observed until Jan. 31.
Even then, Meralco said disconnection of customers with unpaid bills remained a “nonpriority” for the company even after January.
Gatchalian had asked for an extension of the policy for as long as areas like Metro Manila remained under general community quarantine, which was reiterated.
“The financial struggle of the lifeline consumers may not end even after we have managed to hurdle this public health crisis, but we have somehow helped ease their burden by ensuring their continuous electricity supply,” he said.
On the other hand, Presley de Jesus, representative of the Philreca (Philippine Rural Electric Cooperatives Association) party list group, said that any prolonged extension of this policy will disrupt cash flow in power supply chain.
“[T]his disruption is not just going to affect the energy sector,” De Jesus said. “If electricity consumers default on their utility bills payments, then the distribution utilities will eventually default as well to power suppliers.”
He said that Philreca members, being nonprofit entities, do not have deep pockets that privately owned utilities enjoy and cannot survive many months of impaired cash flow.
Even then, Philreca general manager Janeene Depay-Colingan said the group was amenable to a selective implementation of “no disconnection,” such as for lifeline customers only as opposed to all consumers.
Philreca’s 121 members account for a total of 14 million customers.
“This way we can balance the welfare of the consumers and the electric cooperatives,” Colingan said.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.