While the government and the private sector continue to directly source COVID-19 vaccines for Filipinos, senior executives of Republic Gas Corp. (Regasco) and South Pacific, Inc. (SPI) launched a three-pronged vaccination plan for their 3,000-strong workforce dubbed as “Secure. Promote. Initiate.” Both owned by the Ty family of Isabela, Regasco and SPI have been assisting the National Government in attaining herd immunity by starting with their own employees.

According to SPI President Jun Golingay, the two firms have made arrangements to secure Covovax doses from United Laboratories or Unilab. “This supply will assure two doses of the vaccine for each employee, regardless of their status as a contractor or temporary employee. We plan to implement the vaccination process from July to October 2021 and the schedule will be non-disruptive of operations to ensure continuity of customer service,” he disclosed.

“Even as we make vaccination convenient, we will also partner with medical experts from the vaccine provider, public health officials, and other sources to educate our people on the vaccine’s benefits and its effects. These will allay further anxieties and allow our personnel to understand how the vaccine can help them become more productive, health protocol-compliant, and live safely in the new normal,” Mr. Golingay explained.

In line with their corporate social responsibility program, the top management of Regasco and SPI will create an atmosphere that supports workforce immunization by being “vaccine champions and ambassadors” themselves. They will be at the forefront of taking jabs so they can share post-vax experiences and reply to employee queries with credible and accessible information on the safety, efficacy, and side effects of vaccines, if any.

Mr. Golingay hopes that their efforts will create a strong conviction and build confidence among their employees regarding the global vaccination drive, which promises to be the largest-ever mass inoculation program in human history.

Consumer welfare and protection advocate Aurora Pijuan has filed a complaint with the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) against Manila Electric Co. (Meralco). Her contention is that there was no actual meter reading done during the lockdown month of May 2020 when millions of Meralco customers suffered from “bill shock” due to the sudden doubling or tripling of their energy consumption exactly a year ago this month.

Last March, Ms. Pijuan wrote ERC Chair Agnes Devanadera to dispute the accuracy of her May and June 2020 bills while questioning the basis for Meralco’s computations. A hearing was scheduled at the ERC’s central office in Ortigas with several Meralco representatives in attendance.

“I stressed in my letter to ERC Chair Devanadera that no one can be a better witness than me. I am aware of my consumption as I live alone. Surely I would know if I consumed double or triple than my usual. I believe that for the rest of the lockdown year, it would even be less than usual as no one entered my house since March 2020 to May 2021,” she said.

According to Meralco officials, the bills for March and April 2020 were just estimates because Metro Manila was then under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ). Their explanation of the spike in the May 2020 bills was that their meter readers were back in the field and most people were staying at home using airconditioners at the peak of summer.

But Ms. Pijuan found out from administration and security officers in her gated village that except for food deliveries, no outsiders were allowed to enter during ECQ from March 15 to May 15, 2020 and up to the modified ECQ period between May 16 to 31, 2020. She also checked with officers of other Makati villages, which likewise did not allow the entry of Meralco’s meter readers during that period.

Given her findings, the former Miss International winner suspects that an algorithm was simply applied to determine the electricity bills for the months when no meter readings took place. Ms. Pijuan is urging the commission en banc to perform a comprehensive audit of the methodology used by Meralco to bill its customers during last year’s series of lockdowns within its franchise area.

The onus is now on Meralco to show how it derived the figures at a time when gated communities were off-limits to non-residents, including the electric utility’s meter readers. “We have CCTV cameras and log books to prove that,” Ms. Pijuan reiterated.


J. Albert Gamboa is the chief finance officer of Asian Center for Legal Excellence and co-chairman of the FINEX Week Committee. The opinion expressed herein does not necessarily reflect the views of these institutions and BusinessWorld.