The Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) announced on Tuesday it would further cut its power rates by P0.3598 per kilowatt hour (kWh) for a second straight month for March.

It also announced it would soon start sending disconnection notices to lifeline customers, but said cutting their power off would not be a priority.

This undated photo shows Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) workers inspecting power meters at an unnamed mass housing project. MERALCO PHOTO

In a statement, the listed power distributor said the reduction brought rates to P8.3195/kWh from P8.6793/kWh in February.

“This month’s rate is the lowest since August 2017,” it added.

Households consuming 200 kWh will see P71.96 cut from their monthly bill; 300 kWh, P107.94; 400 kWh, P143.92; and 500 kWh, P179.90.

Meralco cited the expected distribution rate true-up refund this month as the main reason for the latest reduction.

The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) earlier granted provisional approval to Meralco’s proposal to refund around P13.9 billion to its customers within 24 months or until the refund is completed.

The amount is the difference between the actual weighted average tariff and the ERC-approved interim average rate for distribution-related charges for the July 2015-to-November 2020 period.

Residential customers would see the refund rate of P0.2761/kWh in their bills as a line item called “Dist True-Up.”

This month’s rate also includes the ERC-approved adjustments for pass-through overrecoveries and underrecoveries for January 2017 to December 2019.

Meralco said it started implementing these adjustments in January.

The power company also cited a lower generation charge, which stands at P4.3749/kWh this month, down P0.0403/kWh from February’s P4.4152/kWh, for the rate cut.

A higher share of supply from the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market, which had the lowest charge among suppliers, accounted for this decrease.

The transmission charge for residential customers inched up by P0.0022/kWh, while taxes and other charges dipped by P0.0456/kWh.

The collection of the universal charge-environmental charge amounting to P0.0025/kWh is still suspended, while Meralco’s distribution, supply and metering charges remained unchanged for 68 months.

Disconnection not a priority

In a virtual briefing on Tuesday, Joe Zaldariagga, Meralco vice president for corporate communications and spokesman, said his firm would begin issuing disconnection notices to lifeline customers next month after the ban on this had expired.

The government previously ordered power distributors to postpone disconnecting these customers for failing to settle bills due this month.

Lifeline consumers are end-users that consume 100/kWh and below monthly.

According to Zaldarriaga, disconnecting customers for not paying their bills was not a Meralco priority.

“Just because a customer received a disconnection notice doesn’t mean Meralco will cut off their electricity outright,” said in Taglish, pointing out that the company have stopped issuing such notices since March last year.

“As long as they visit the nearest Meralco business center in their area, the company is prepared to assist its customers on payment issues. As we’ve said earlier, Meralco is not prioritizing disconnection,” the official added.

Some customers are doing their part and settling their bills on time, according to him.