Regulator may extend freeze order vs power cuts to end of the year

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THE Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) said it will require power distributors to extend the moratorium on power disconnections until the end of the year.

The commission is set to issue an advisory ordering distribution utilities to defer power disconnections to after Dec. 31, its chairperson told Senators during the Department of Energy’s budget hearing Tuesday.

“‘Yan po ‘yung nakalagay sa aming draft ngayon (That’s what we’ve written in our draft advisory),” ERC Chairperson Agnes VST Devanadera said in a reply to a question by Senator Risa N. Hontiveros-Baraquel.

Kasama na po sa i-issue ng ERC ang relaxation ng disconnection policies (The relaxation of disconnection policies is also included in our upcoming advisory),” she said.

Manila Electric Co. (Meralco), the Philippines’ largest power utility, is due to lift its self-imposed moratorium on disconnections on Oct. 31. It first suspended disconnections in April.

“Meralco has always been considerate of the circumstances of its customers, hence the seven months (since the start of the pandemic) of disconnection moratorium being observed,” Lawrence S. Fernandez, Meralco’s head of utility economics, said last week.

The ERC noted the initiative of some power distributors that declared their own moratorium even without a government order.

On Sept. 23, the Department of Energy ordered the energy industry players to continue extending grace periods and enforcing a staggered payment scheme for their customers. This was issued complying with the Republic Act No. 11494, or the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan II).

Even with the said order, the government is requesting that those with the capacity to settle their electric bills pay them within the due dates.

“We are asking all those who can pay their electric bills to please pay,” Ms. Devanadera said. “And we are also asking the government agencies who have (the) budget for this to please implement their payment to help out the industry,” she added. — Adam J. Ang

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