A CONGRESSMAN has urged Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) to extend the period within which it does not charge fees and disconnect past due accounts by six more months amid a coronavirus pandemic.

“The six-month extension of the no disconnection period would be enough time for electricity consumers to be in a better position to pay their bills considering that many lost their jobs and are finding it hard to just put a meal on the table,” Party-list Rep. Carlos Isagani T. Zarate said in a statement on Sunday.

“Adding a convenience fee would just make it harder for electricity consumers to pay their bills,” he added.

The lawmaker said people use more electricity during the summer, and many of them might go out more often to save power to fight the heat. This could further spread the coronavirus, he added.

Meralco stopped disconnecting the power of those who have failed to pay their bills in March, when Metro Manila and nearby provinces were placed under a strict lockdown amid a fresh surge in infections.

It extended the favor until May 14 from the original April 30 deadline “to take into consideration the challenges our customers are facing amid these difficult times.” 

The company on Thursday said it would start charging a P15 convenience fee again for online bill payments starting June 1, lower than its original fee of P47.

The company has said it could not do away with the fee that is charged through its Meralco app by PayMaya, a third-party online payment channel. Payments made through online banking may not be charged convenience fees.

Meralco’s controling stakeholder, Beacon Electric Asset Holdings, Inc., is partly owned by PLDT, Inc.

Hastings Holdings, Inc., a unit of PLDT Beneficial Trust Fund subsidiary MediaQuest Holdings, Inc. has an interest in BusinessWorld through the Philippine Star Group, which it controls. — Bianca Angelica D. Añago