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ERC pressed to impose fines on other DUs, electric coops

Following the imposition of P19-million fines against Manila Electric Company (Meralco), the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) is being pressed to take the same decisive step at slapping penalties against the other distribution utilities (DUs) and electric cooperatives.

Former Representative and InfraWatch PH Convenor Terry Ridon primarily called on the ERC “to similarly fine other power distribution utilities for also violating ERC directives” which were laid down during the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) enforcements of the government from March to May this year.

The former lawmaker opined “the ERC is setting itself up to charges of discrimination and equal protection violations if it focuses its attention solely on Meralco.”

ERC Chairperson Agnes T. Devanadera earlier made pronouncements that the regulatory body will also scrutinize the violations of the other DUs and ECs, but she has not given a timeframe on when the Commission will rule on this.

The enforcement of “estimated billings” by DUs during the ECQ period in the country was actually a mandate issued by the ERC; but the DUs and ECs bewailed the lack of clear guidelines on how these shall be carried out in their dispatch of bills to consumers.

As emphasized by Ridon, “other distribution utilities around the country had encountered similar complaints during the lockdown.”

In fact in most of the regional areas, there are some power utilities raising complaints that the ERC has been turning a blind eye on the grievances of some consumers, especially since these are not often tackled in media reports.

“By failing to include similarly-situated DUs, it is ignoring a larger segment of the population that had also encountered the same concerns in their electricity bills during the pandemic,” Ridon stressed.

In terms of proportion, the magnitude of consumers served by the ECs nationwide at 13 million, is roughly double that of the 6.9 million customer-base of Meralco.

The InfraWatch group further asserted “the ERC should resolve customer complaints on other DUs, to show that it is fairly implementing its mandate to ease the public’s burden during the pandemic.”

Ridon pointed out ERC’s impartiality must prevail, because if not “it would appear that the Commission is merely singling out Meralco to score political brownie points.”

In a recent Senate Committee on Energy hearing, the regulatory body was asked if it has any policy for consumers to raise their complaints and grievances – and the only channel offered by ERC lawyer Chiara Angela Blanco is to send these through emails to the Commission.

And while the Meralco penalty has been imposed, Ridon noted the consumers will not be benefitting from it — especially in reducing the high electric bills that they complained of during the summer months.

He thus reminded the ERC that “the interest of the public is not to increase government coffers during the pandemic, but to reduce their electricity burden during this pandemic.”

Source: Manila Bulletin (

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