The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) needs to come up with a “staggered payment” scheme for electricity bills as consumers’ payables pile up with the extension of due dates because of the enhanced community quarantine, according to Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian.

Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC)Last month, following the announcement of the Luzon-wide lockdown, companies like Manila Electric Co. granted to their customers a 30-day extension of bills that were to fall due during the quarantine.

For example, Meralco bills that were due on March 1 to April 14 could be paid without penalties until April 1 and May 14, respectively.

Also, the National Electrification Administration (NEA) said at least 83 electric cooperatives have also announced similar reliefs for their member consumers.

NEA Administrator Edgardo Masongsong said implementing a 30-day payment extension to electricity consumers would help ease their financial burden, especially those who were not able to work or go out of their homes.

Masongsong said that while a significant number of electric cooperatives already complied with the directive—most were found in Luzon and Visayas—other power co-ops simply released public announcements on the waiver of surcharges for late payments.

Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate committee on energy, expressed concern that most households, especially those belonging to the marginalized sector, might not have the financial capacity to pay their two months’ worth of electricity bills in full and therefore risk disconnection of power services.

The lawmaker suggested that the ERC implement solutions that would ease payment terms of consumers such as staggering payment of the two months of electricity bills for at least three months.

“For humanitarian reasons, let’s think of ways that will make the lives of our kababayan better and alleviate their suffering as we face this pandemic,” Gatchalian said.

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