Customers with unpaid bills may negotiate with Meralco

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    Negotiate. This was a scene in June 2020 when some Meralco customers flocked to the power distributor’s business centers to clarify their billing statements during the height of the community quarantines. (Photo by RHOY COBLLA)

    The Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) will no longer extend its no-disconnection policy on customers with pending bills caused by the pandemic but expressed openness to renegotiate settlement with customers on a case-by-case basis.

    “Disconnection is farthest from our priority for now. We are bending further by trying to find a middle ground and solutions on a case-by- case basis for all our customers who have difficulty paying because of accumulated bills. We are here to provide help and assistance if needed,” said Joe Zaldarriaga, Meralco spokesman.

    Meralco’s no-disconnection policy will end on Jan. 31, 2021 for households which consume 200 kilowatt hours and below per month. There are about 3 million customers under this classification.

    Meralco could not provide the amount of its collectibles but said it has to start collecting from customers with pending bills to be able to meet its obligations to power suppliers faithfully.

    Floresinda Digal, commissioner at the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) said it is studying carefully the proposal by Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, to order distribution utilities to extend the no-disconnection policy for low-income consumers at least until the end of the government-imposed general community quarantine.

    “We need to check our data and confer with stakeholders so we could determine how to properly move forward considering the attendant circumstances. Rest assured that the Commission is continuously monitoring the situation on the ground and will act accordingly,” Digal said.

    Gatchalian, committee on energy chairman, cited findings of a November 2020 survey by Pulse Asia Research, 58 percent of the 2,400 surveyed either lost their jobs or source of income.

    The Philippine Statistics Authority reported that October 2020 data showed the number of unemployed Filipinos reached 3.8 million compared to the previous 2.1 million.