President Rodrigo Duterte has approved the recommendation of the Department of Energy (DOE) to extend the no disconnection policy for so-called “lifeline” consumers.
“The Department of Energy recommended to the President that the no disconnection policy for lifeliners be continued, and the President readily agreed given that electricity is a basic necessity that our countrymen cannot live without,” Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles on Thursday said in a virtual presser.
On Wednesday, Duterte convened his Cabinet officials for their 51st meeting.
Lifeliners, or low-income consumers, consume electricity within the threshold level set by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC).
For instance, in one distribution utility, lifeline consumers are those consumers with monthly electricity consumption of 100 kilowatt-hours and below.
“According to the Department of Energy, while lifeliners comprise 32 percent of the customer base, they only account for 3 percent of electricity sales. So, this is very doable,” Nograles said.
Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) spokesperson Joe Zaldarriaga said the company will comply with the directive of the government.
“(We) will wait for the specific guidelines from the Department of Energy. We would like to assure our customers that we will continue to assist all of them in addressing their billing issues,” Zaldarriaga said in a statement.
Nograles said Duterte also urged the Congress to pass legislation that will extend the benefits enjoyed by lifeline consumers like discounts in electricity bills ranging from 20 to 100 percent depending on a benchmark set by ERC.
He added there are pending bills in Congress to extend the lifeline rate implementation.
Section 73 of the Republic Act (RA) 9136, or the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA), provides benefits for low-income consumers for 10 years starting 2001.
The period was extended for another decade through the Republic Act No. 10150.
However, this will expire by mid-2021, Nograles said.
“The President calls on the Congress to extend the lifeliners’ benefits from 2021 to 2051,” he added.