The National Electrification Administration (NEA) supported the appeal of rural electric cooperatives (ECs) to “indefinitely” extend the deadline of their payments to generation and transmission firms.

In a press release on late Monday, the agency tasked to power rural communities, asked the Department of Energy (DoE) and Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to grant the appeal of power cooperatives to extend their payments “until such time that the operations of the ECs have normalized and stabilized.”

Even if NEA allowed the ECs to source for short-term loans from financial institutions to cushion themselves from the impact of falling power demand during the enhanced community quarantine in Luzon, it noted that power cooperatives were having difficulties in paying their bills, as their collections from customers were also suspended, following the orders from the DoE and the ERC.

These bills cover the Feb. 26-March 25 period, which is due on April 25.

“The ECs will have difficulty in settling power bills covering this cycle due to limited collection from March 15 to April 14,” NEA Administrator Edgardo R. Masongsong said in a statement.

The agency also endorsed the electric cooperatives’ appeal to the DoE and the ERC to invoke a force majeure event provision in their power supply agreements.

“With this billing adjustment, the surge in the generation cost component, which will be passed on to consumers will be mitigated,” Mr. Masongsong said.

Still, NEA told the ECs to remit their collections to their power suppliers, the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines, Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp., and the Independent Electricity Market Operator of the Philippines.

Recently, NEA released P1.3 billion of its unused funds to help in the government’s fight against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

The redirection of funds was in line with Republic Act No. 11469, or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, which authorizes President Rodrigo R. Duterte to redirect cash, funds, and investments from government-owned and -controlled corporations and national government agencies.

Electric cooperatives, too, have extended their help in the COVID-19 relief efforts with the “Pantawid Liwanag” program of Philippine Rural Electric Cooperatives Association, Inc., which aims to subsidize the electricity needs of poor families affected by the impact of the pandemic.

Moreover, NEA has extended the loan amortization payments of 121 ECs following the declaration of a state of public health emergency in the country due to COVID-19.