Mon. Jul 26th, 2021

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By Butch Junia

Captive customers of Meralco please take a moment from the lockdown to hold Meralco and the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) accountable – there are over six million of US that will be affected by this onerous announcement!

The Meralco advisory says according to ERC rules they can estimate our consumption this coming month based on our last 3 months use because their meter readers cannot go to the field.

Fine to protect their workers as we all must stay safe but not fine to twist the rules and pull a fast one especially in this time of crisis!

Meralco, with all its top notch lawyers and techs, is deliberately mis-interpreting in their onerous favor.

Ano ang sinasabi ng Meralco na basehan nila sa ERC rules?

The rules set out in the Distribution Service and Open Access Rules (DSOAR) issued by ERC in Case 2005-10, Article 3.5.4 a:

“If the distribution utility (DU) is unable to obtain useable meter data from a customer or to read the meter… DU may bill based upon their estimated usage… Estimated billing should only be allowed in case the meter fails to register the consumption of the customer for an entire billing period or a portion thereof. Otherwise, the meter reading must be done immediately after said fortuitous event ceases to exist. “

Our situation now falls squarely with the last two sentences of that rule which I repeat:

“Estimated billing should only be allowed in case the meter fails to register the consumption of the customer for an entire billing period or a portion thereof. Otherwise, the meter reading must be done immediately after said fortuitous event ceases to exist. “

THIS IS NOT A FAILURE OF THE METER TO REGISTER, THIS IS A FAILURE OF THE READER TO READ!

Here  is where our concern are highlighted – “Averaging” has been the distribution utilities and ERC’s weapon of choice for gouging captive customers.

 Once the average is collected, arriving at the true cost becomes a major challenge, especially for the consumer because when over-collections occur, the consumers are never refunded.

 In fact, Meralco alone owes the consumers P200 billion in uncollected over-collections. Consumer advocates over a trillion pesos in over-collections, mostly from provisional price increases since 2001, have not been reconciled under review, rest and true-up rules set by law.

(Why can’t they regularly do this when the oil industry is very efficient in periodically increasing or rolling back their price indices?)

ERC records are replete with alarming averages that in one case, Meralco’s claim went up to 101% after all the component items were averaged out. Yes that’s indeed one per cent over the top!

The determination of true cost will be a nightmare at the HH level but a bonanza for the distribution utility. Imagine a 2,500 peso bill per month household taking the trouble to scrutinize a 200 peso variance, give or take a 10 or 20.

Too cheap and too tough to bother. Todo pasa na lang. Imagine 10 or 20 pesos each from over six million households. I don’t bother, either but Ouch, at 200 pesos each that’s a Christmas bonus of P1.2 billion a year for Meralco stockholders.  

What Meralco and ERC should do: Meralco, follow the rules; ERC, enforce your rules: “meter reading must be done immediately after the said fortuitous event… The amount due for the service provided…” to be billed. That’s fair. That’s the rule.

Besides, consider this : Under performance-based regulation (PBR),  Meralco charges us 7.8% of their operating capital as Working Capital which covers time lag between the billing and collection of generation charges. This is in the range of P1.3B. This can answer for charges that cannot be deferred.

But they can also defer payment to generating companies  for their bilaterals and to transmission companies. Taxes can also be deferred.

Under the rules Meralco must defer billing and collection; ERC must enforce those rules.

 Moreover, MERALCO from the unverified and unaudited third regulatory period of PBR that ended June 30, 2015 and continuing up to the present charges us over P60B annually for so-called Return on Capital, vast cash reserves that they can use to bridge the gap between reading billing and collection.

There are many other ways Meralco can contribute to alleviating public distress in this time of crisis.

Sana ang mga nagsasamantala sa krisis ang makatikim ng sampal at ngitngit ni Mayor.

Lugmok na nga tayo sa veerus… Ito pa aabutin natin. #

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