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FIRING LINE: Relief amid the pandemic

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By Robert B. Roque, Jr.

As we eagerly prepare for the “new normal” post-quarantine world characterized by fear and uncertainty, we also realize that there are certainties that equally frighten us. One of them is the fear of having to face suspended payments of utility bills that have accumulated during the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ).

Electricity bills were among the most anticipated, especially since being on lockdown at home means 24/7 electricity use with all the family members utilizing appliances nonstop.

It was expected that the electricity bill would increase, but what was startling was the May bill’s jump compared with those of the previous months.

Meralco, though, was “armed and ready” for an explanation. Apparently, March and April bills were simply “stand-in bills” because they were just estimated, based on the previous three-month average.

Meter reading was suspended at the onset of ECQ thus the inability to make an accurate reading for every household. When reading resumed this month, the true consumption was reflected and applied all adjustments to the May bill.

It was a complicated matter to understand, more so for emotional consumers who were already antsy about life post-ECQ. Still, it was a matter that is understandable if one takes time to do so.

Checking own meter reading and comparing it with the last read consumption was the next best thing to prove whether or not the bills were accurate. For my household, the figures on my meter — which was untampered and secure — and the reflected kilowatt per hour (kwh) consumption in my bill, were accurate.

Our household consumption was responsible for the bill. That, plus the sizzling summer heat that made appliances consume more, especially the aircon, fans, and coolers. There was no choice but to pay.

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It is thus a relief to learn that the Energy Regulatory Commission had advised Meralco and other affected cooperatives and private distribution utilities to extend the installment scheme for payment of electricity bills under ECQ.

Under the new guidelines, households that used 200kwh and below last February 2020 will have six months to pay their March, April, and May bills. Those who have consumed beyond 200kwh can pay their three-month ECQ bills for four months.

Consumers will also have more time to prepare since the payments will start only after June 15. Meralco will send out new bills that will indicate which ones are due for the month, and which ones can be paid by installment.

Another relief is the waiving of the P47 convenience fee Meralco customers paid when they used the Meralco Online App. The power firm promised to refund those who paid during the ECQ period from March 16 to May 15.

This, I have to see. I paid my most recent bill using the App only last May 23 and I still got charged P47.

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SHORT BURSTS. For comments or reactions, email firingline@ymail.com

or tweet @Side_View. Read current and past issues of this column at https://thephilbiznews.com

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