MALACAÑANG on Friday said power utility Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) has been asked to clarify computations of its latest bills and may face ‘punitive action’ if found overcharging the public.
Deputy Presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte told reporters in a briefing the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) has ordered the company “to clarify the confusion among the public as to the difference between the amount due, as well as the total amount due.”
“I would deem it good to mention at this point that the ERC has asked them to explain, and let’s wait for the response, as well as the corresponding action on the ERC on the issue whether or not they will be receiving any punitive action because of the latest billing statement,” Valte said.
Citing an update from the ERC, Valte said Meralco officials were summoned to a meeting on Thursday with the Consumer Protection Group (CPG) headed by Undersecretary Victorio Dimaguiba.
The Meralco executives said subscribers need not pay “the amount described as ‘deferred’ pending resolution of the SC TRO [Supreme Court’s temporary restraining order],” adding, “please pay in accordance with the SC TRO.”
Valte said Meralco was told to launch an information campaign to clarify the matter.
“These amounts apparently were included in the billing for purposes of being transparent to its subscribers who are affected by the pending resolution of the Supreme Court,” she added.
The CPG will find out if the power distributor is complying with its commitment, Valte said.
The ERC, on the other hand, has asked company officials to explain in five days the new electric billing format.
On Tuesday, former Rep. Teodoro Casino of Bayan Muna assailed Meralco for trying to collect its controversial power rate hike despite a restraining order from the Supreme Court.
Casino said the power firm tried to collect the first tranche of its record P4.15 per kilowatt-hour increase by passing it off as “balance from previous billing.”
“In my monthly bill dated February 13, 2014 there was a ‘balance from previous billing’ of P173.70 which, although described as ‘deferred, pending resolution of the SC temporary restraining order,’ was added to my total current amount of P2,786.86 making my total amount due P2,960.56,” he said.
“When I inquired about this with Meralco’s customer service call center, I was advised to ‘ignore’ the total amount due of P2,960.56 and just pay the total current amount,” he added.
The ERC is in the best position to determine if there has been any violation by Meralco, Valte said.
“Perhaps, we’ll get a better sense of it from the ERC after Meralco has filed the answer that they are required to file with the ERC,” she added.