Makabayan lawmakers seek probe into sudden spike in Meralco bills

Mara Cepeda
Makabayan lawmakers seek probe into sudden spike in Meralco bills

ROBREYES

The legislators say the high electricity bills 'added more anxiety to many' as the country continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic

MANILA, Philippines – The 6 legislators of the progressive Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives are calling for a probe into the sudden jump in the electricity bills of Manila Electric Company (Meralco) customers in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.

The following lawmakers filed House Resolution (HR) No. 879 on Monday, May 18, a copy of which was sent to reporters on Tuesday, May 19, directing the House committee on energy to do the Meralco investigation:

  • Bayan Muna Representatives Carlos Zarate, Ferdinand Gaite, and Eufemia Cullamat
  • ACT Teachers Representative France Castro
  • Gabriela Women’s Party Representative Arlene Brosas
  • Kabataan Representative Sarah Elago 

In HR No. 879, the Makabayan bloc said several consumers have complained about the spike in their electricity bills in May even if their consumption remained low. (READ: Jump in power bills shocks consumers, Meralco defends rates)

“Such high and unconscionable electric bills only added more anxiety to many, especially now when most people are in dire straits to survive the harsh effects of the crisis brought by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said the lawmakers.

The Makabayan bloc noted that the spike occurred despite President Rodrigo Duterte telling Congress in a report dated May 4 that there was an “excess capacity over peak demands” in electricity consumption, with Luzon only using 3,341 megawatts or 29%, the Visayas with 858 megawatts or 33%, and Mindanao with 878 megawatts or 35%.

“Now therefore, be it resolved, that the House of Representatives, through its committee on energy, to investigate, in aid of legislation, the sudden big spike in Meralco electricity rates and bills despite the overcapacity of electricity supply,” the Makabayan lawmakers said.

Meralco spokesperson Joe Zaldarriaga earlier said some March and all April bills were estimated based on consumers’ 3-month average daily consumption, which follows the rules issued by the Energy Regulatory Commission. (READ: FALSE: Bills for March and April 2020 now free – Meralco) 

But he said the Meralco bills for May were already based on actual readings, which may explain the increase.

Zaldarriaga also said customers likely used more appliances like air-conditioners at home during the lockdown imposed due to COVID-19, which hit the Philippines during summer.

Under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, payments for utilities are suspended while parts of the country remain under lockdown.

Unpaid bills with due dates from March 1 to May 15 (bill dates from February 21 to May 6) should be converted into 4 equal monthly installments.

Read a fully copy of HR No. 879 below:

– Rappler.com

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.