Paying in 3 installments

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    The proposed law endeavors to give victims of calamities a way to stretch their wallets by allowing the payment of electricity, water, internet, and telephone bills in three installments, thus the title “Three Gives Law.”

    MANY households have been complaining to the authorities, particularly to Sen. Grace Poe and Chairwoman Agnes Devanadera of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), that they have received extraordinarily high electric bills from the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco). These bills cover the two-month period of enhanced community quarantine in Metro Manila and the rest of Luzon.

    Devanadera said the ERC needs to look into these consumers’ allegations and so they required Meralco to submit data or information for the commission to validate the accuracy of their billing calculations.

    Initially, Meralco explained that its 6.9 million customers, mostly households, were billed based on average consumption from December to February because meter reading could not be done in March and April due to the ECQ. To help the households, the electric bills can be paid on an installment basis, as agreed by Meralco and the government.

    While this problem on electric bills is being sorted out, there is a bill in the Senate that seeks to institutionalize the grant of installment payments not just for consumption of electricity but also for other utilities such as water, internet, telephone, etc.

    The measure, Senate Bill 1473 called the Three Gives Law, is sponsored by Sen. Francis “Tol” Tolentino. It proposes a permanent installment payment scheme for basic utility bills during natural and man-made calamities and disasters.

    The proposed law endeavors to give victims of calamities a way to stretch their wallets by allowing the payment of electricity, water, internet, and telephone bills in three installments, thus the title “Three Gives Law.” No interest or penalty shall be imposed during the moratorium in payment of utility bills.

    Under the bill, holders of public utility franchises and all service providers cannot exact payment and they cannot disconnect the service due to non-payment during the entire duration of the moratorium or while the emergency subsists. The amounts that fall due shall be payable in three equal monthly installments, without interest, which shall accrue a month after the state of emergency/calamity has ended.

    If enacted into law, this bill by Senator Tolentino should buy time for the consumers to save some money and pay their debts, while giving businesses the chance to collect from them even if for a longer period.

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