MANILA, Philippines – Power distributor Manila Electric Company (Meralco) asked its customers to disregard their December 2013 bills following a Supreme Court order stopping the implementation of the company’s rate hike.
Meralco sent a letter to its customers telling them to disregard the bills if payments have not been made. Customers should instead pay the amounts they were billed in November.
“In compliance with the temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by the Supreme Court on December 23, we advise you to temporarily set aside your December 2013 bill,” Alfredo Panlilio, senior vice president and customer retail services and corporate communications head, said in the letter.
If a customer’s December bill however is lower than the previous month’s, he or she may choose to pay for it.
Customers paying their November bills may do so at the nearest Meralco Business Center. Those who want to settle their December bills may go to Bayad Center outlets.
Panlilio said customers should pay within 10 days from receipt of Meralco’s letter.
See the infographic below for the complete guidelines.
The High Court issued a 60-day TRO on the P4.15-per-kilowatt-hour (kWh) power rate hike of Meralco, the highest increase ever in Metro Manila. The Court scheduled oral arguments on the issue on January 21.
The Court issued the order amid reports of collusion among power plants that went on unscheduled simultaneous outages coinciding with the scheduled maintenance shutdown of the Malampaya natural gas field. The shutdowns forced Meralco to source power from plants that run on diesel, which is more expensive than natural gas. (READ: 13 things Meralco consumers should know about the hike)
Panlilio said Meralco will make the necessary adjustments for customers who already paid their December bills.
“Any upward or downward adjustment shall be applied to your subsequent billing/s as shall be authorized by the relevant authority,” he said.
70% got bill when TRO issued
Meralco said 70% or about 3.5 million of its customers already got their December bills when the Supreme Court issued the TRO.
Panlilio said that 30% of customers have paid their December bills.
“But I am sure that [the figure is] higher after today, coming from long holidays. Remember, our normal billing cycle was delayed by a week,” he said on Thursday, January 2.
Meralco announced the rate hike in December, set to be distributed in 3 tranches. The rate hike was intended to be staggered as follows: P2.41 per kWh in December 2013, P1.21 per kWh in February 2014 and P.053 per kWh in March.
The price hike prompted lawmakers to call for a review of the industry, and sparked a debate on cheaper and more reliable sources of power. The Philippines has one of the highest power rates in Asia.
The Department of Energy, Department of Justice, and Congress are all investigating the power rate hike.
‘Many implications for Meralco’
Meralco President Oscar Reyes said the TRO has “a magnitude of implications” on the company, particularly its cash flow and financial or credit position.
“The last thing you want to do is to diminish … the delivery of electricity service. If one part of the supply chain can’t function or [is] unable to continue paying its bills, that may have repercussions on the entire supply chain.”
“We have to ensure that the supply chain functions efficiently,” said Reyes.
Meralco made an infographic to guide its customers in paying their December bills:
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