1,000 signatures reached
To: Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), Congress of the Philippines
#TigilBayad: Moratorium on MERALCO BILL SHOCK payments now!
We, the undersigned residential electric consumers, demand the Congress of the Philippines and the Energy Regulatory Commission to declare a moratorium on all MERALCO bill payments for March, April, and May 2020—the Enhanced Community Quarante months when MERALCO perpetrated the “bill shock.” Consumers cannot be made to pay these anomalous bills until the issue is properly resolved.
We call for this moratorium to provide justice to consumers whose bills were based on estimates, followed by an “actual” meter reading which bloated their consumption levels as MERALCO passed on to residential consumers the over 30% of the already contracted electricity intended for the industries, manufacturing, and commerce sectors but were not dispatched and consumed to these sectors as they were forced to close during the quarantine and lockdown. MERALCO, and generation companies also continued to keep bills high by sourcing over a third of their energy from the dirtiest and most expensive source— coal. In March and April, MERALCO chose to purchase more from expensive coal PSAs rather than renewable energy sources, leading to higher generation charges for these months.
This moratorium also aims to immediately provide urgently needed financial relief to consumers—especially we daily wage-earners and of low-income backgrounds—who are presently overburdened by rising costs of living and rampant loss of livelihood and income. These consumers, already suffering from the pandemic, were struck by MERALCO with the said “bill shock” in May 2020, when they were charged triple or even quadruple their usual bill. MERALCO then implemented a payment scheme which violated government rules and was unfair to consumers to boot. MERALCO now threatens disconnection by October—even with just one month of payment is missed—despite many still struggling to pay the March-May bill installments at present, on top of succeeding monthly bills.
The bill shock is just the latest chapter in MERALCO’s long history of high electricity rates, overcharging, and refusal to release long-overdue refunds. MERALCO—a monopolistic, private distribution utility with a massive captive market, earning billions since 2010 at the expense of consumers—characteristically, did not waste the opportunity to profiteer during this pandemic.
Why is this important?
A suspension of MERALCO bill shock payments—endorsed through a resolution by the members of the Congress of the Philippines and imposed through an order by the Energy Regulatory Commission—can provide the long-sought justice and immediate financial relief to ordinary consumers struggling today. This too, is the least that MERALCO should be compelled to do to correct its abuses against its customers with decades of overcharging and unreturned refunds. Especially in a time of high unemployment rates, not having to worry about paying the questionable electricity bills provides security, albeit temporary, in an unstable financial situation.
Consumers must not be forced to pay the anomalous March to May bills until our energy regulators ensure the following:
1. A swift and just resolution of the MERALCO bill shock through the completion of an in-depth investigation and audit of MERALCO's cash flows and liabilities. MERALCO and other parties found to be responsible for unreasonable electric bills must be penalized.
2. Return of all bill shock payments and pending MERALCO refunds in the form of cash or credit to consumers’ bills, as preferred by the consumer.
3. Reforms in MERALCO’s billing practices, rate settings (especially under the PBR) and charging of exorbitant fees (such as system loss charges).
This moratorium is a first step that the ERC and Congress can do to safeguard the interests and rights of electric consumers who have long suffered at the hands of MERALCO. Beyond this, we urge our energy regulators to:
1. Advance the development of renewable energy technologies especially in the form of microgrids to pave the path for a decentralized power sector, which is the best solution for problems encountered with MERALCO. This would yield long-term economic benefits, including cheaper electricity, energy sector resilience, and creation of green jobs.
2. Review and renegotiate all PSAs that did not go through a Competitive Selection Process or were passed anomalously or are detrimental to consumers by lack of carve-out clauses and inclusion of add-on charges and lock-in provisions, among other factors.
3. Expand the lifeline rate to 210 kwh to benefit more residential consumers, and afford them increased discounts in distribution, supply, and metering charges and other subsidies, especially for the low-income, low-consumption classes.
4. Review the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) towards an overhaul. The present MERALCO bill shock is but the epitome of the law’s failure “to ensure the quality, reliability, security and affordability of the supply of electric power.”
We demand the ERC and the Philippine Congress to act swiftly on these matters. #TigilBayad #NagmamahalMERALCO