Meralco questions discount

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    Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) said it has paid the P19- million fine to the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC).

    It, however, filed a motion for partial reconsideration on the directive to provide a retail rate discount to lifeline customers.

    The fine was imposed on Meralco for failing to clearly indicate the bills charged to customers during the enhanced community quarantine were only estimates and for not complying with the mandated installment payment arrangement.

    According to the motion filed by Meralco dated Sept. 11, 2020, ERC has committed an invalid exercise of police power when it ordered to set to zero the distribution, supply and metering (DSM) charges of 2.77 million lifeline consumers whose monthly energy consumption does not exceed 100 kilowatt hours for one month billing cycle. The discount is estimated to cost up to P240 million.

    Meralco said the ERC is not authorized to grant such discounts or subsidies on account of the effects of the pandemic.

    It added the order to provide discounts was done without due process which is an invalid exercise of the government’s power of eminent domain.

    It added this also violates Meralco’s rights to equal protection as ERC “unlawfully singled out” the company from other distribution utilities in ordering the discount.

    Meralco said ERC cannot just set DSM charges to zero without publication, notice or a public hearing.

    “While Meralco is willing to extend the necessary assistance to consumers to cushion the impact of the pandemic, as in fact it has granted discounts and payment extensions numerous times throughout the past years, Meralco respectfully submits that any compulsion to extend financial assistance has no legal basis,” the motion read. – J. Macapagal