MANILA, Philippines – Power distributor Manila Electric Company (Meralco) ought to refund P29.6 billion to consumers for its "over-recovery" of allowed annual distribution charges from 2013 to 2018, said Bayan Muna chairman Neri Colmenares and advocacy group Matuwid na Singil sa Kuryente Consumers Alliance (MSK).
In a statement on Sunday, January 26, Colmenares and MSK called on Congress to investigate Meralco's "questionable acts," as they reiterated MSK's petition filed with the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) in late 2019 seeking the refund.
The ERC reportedly blocked MSK's petition, which claimed that Meralco used outdated figures in calculating the distribution rate it charged consumers from 2013 to 2018.
MSK said the company based its charges on lower energy sales and annual growth rate figures instead of actual numbers from the period, which meant that consumers were made to shoulder a larger portion of distribution costs in their monthly bills than was necessary.
"Meralco's current rate was computed in 2013 and was based on lower energy sales of 30.61 billion kilowatt-hours a year, and an annual growth of 3.5%. Meralco sales have been growing at an average of 6.78% per year in the last 9 years, resulting in windfall revenues of an estimated P29.6 billion up to 2018," said MSK executive director Aya Jallorina.
"This is grossly unfair and amounts to exploitation of the unsuspecting [electricity] consumers," Jallorina added.
Over the years, consumer rights groups have questioned the way Meralco computes electricity bills.
In October 2019, the Supreme Court (SC) directed the ERC to review Meralco's unbundled rates "for determination of a reasonable and fair valuation of the regulatory asset base that will provide electricity to consumers in the least cost manner."
In other words, the ERC was ordered to check whether Meralco was using the right figures on which to base the amount it passes on to consumers, to the effect that consumers end up paying as little as possible, as the law requires.
The SC was then acting on a complaint from the National Association of Electricity Consumers for Reforms, a consumer rights group. – Rappler.com
JC Gotinga often reports about the West Philippine Sea, the communist insurgency, and terrorism as he covers national defense and security for Rappler. He enjoys telling stories about his hometown, Pasig City. JC has worked with Al Jazeera, CNN Philippines, News5, and CBN Asia.