The National Electrification Administration (NEA) is backing an appeal by electric cooperatives for an indefinite extension—indefinitely or until their business operations return to normal—of the deadline for them to pay their obligations to power generation and transmission companies.

NEA Administrator Edgardo Masongsong said he had written the Department of Energy and the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) seeking favorable action on this matter.

Masongsong said constraints posed by the new coronavirus disease had resulted in a sharp drop in the cooperatives’ efficiency in collecting payments from their customers.

Based on latest NEA monitoring, there are over 90 cooperatives in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao that provided 30-day grace period for consumers to settle their electricity bills.

This is on top of the cancellation of surcharges and power disconnections for end users who failed to pay on time.

This, in turn, has affected the power distributors’ ability to settle their accounts with suppliers and service providers, including power generators and the grid operator.

Masongsong added that the situation was exacerbated by the extension of the enhanced community quarantine in Luzon by two weeks to April 30.

Because of this, relief afforded by the ERC—in the form of extending by 30 days the deadline for payments of all fees to power generators— will be not enough for the cooperatives.

“The [cooperatives] will have difficulty in settling power bills covering this cycle due to limited collection from March 15 to April 14,” Masongsong said.

He said an indefinite extension, instead of just 30 days, for the cooperatives would “ease the burden [on] industry players, as we fully understand that the generation and transmission sectors cannot be isolated from the economic consequences of this pandemic.”

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