POWER consumers enjoying deferred payments on their lockdown bills have been given the option to pay off their arrears in installments between May and September.
The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), in an advisory issued late Wednesday, ordered the power industry to give customers a grace period on bills incurred during the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), which was extended to April 30, without interest, penalties, fees, and other charges.
The ERC originally ordered the deferral of payments on bills due within the first quarantine period, which was to end April 14, but which was extended to April 30.
The deferred amounts will be reflected as separate items in the electricity bill due in the succeeding cycles, “provided that the first billing due date following the ECQ shall be no earlier than 15 May 2020.”
The ERC still urged consumers to settle their arrears as soon as possible to help power companies “manage (their) cash flow… and ensure the continuous supply of electricity.”
Distribution utilities have been allowed to offer incentives for customers who do not avail of the extended payment period and choose to pay earlier.
Payments by distribution utilities and retail electricity suppliers to power generators and suppliers, the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. (PSALM), National Power Corp. (NPC), National Transmission Corp. (TransCo), National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP), independent power producers (IPP), IPP administrators and the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market operator, have also been extended to beyond the end of the quarantine.
The collection of feed-in-tariff allowance (FiT-All), which is also a component of charges paid for by consumers, has been suspended until the next billing cycle.
ERC also reminded utilities using average billing that they must inform their customers that their bills are estimates. The ERC permitted bills to be based on average consumption in past months because meter readers were also unable to perform their duties during the ECQ.
The Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) has said bills falling between March 15 and April 14 will be based on average monthly consumption in the first quarter.
Meanwhile, the National Electrification Administration (NEA) clarified on Thursday that only rural poor households who consume less than 50 kilowatt-hours of electricity will see their bills in the March-April billing period waived.
“Consumers of less than 50 kWh, or those so-called lifeline consumers of electric cooperatives… your power for the March to April billing period is free,” Cabinet Secretary Karlo B. Nograles said in Filipino during the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases briefing held on Wednesday. — Adam J. Ang