Bayan Muna Wednesday urged the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to make the Manila Electric Company (Meralco) to apply as customer payments portions from P108 billion in overcharges, over-recoveries and bill deposits that Meralco collected and accumulated over the years.
“This huge amount of money should have been refunded to Meralco’s customers years ago. In this time of great difficulty and need, it is unconscionable for Meralco to continue holding on to these funds that do not belong to it anyway,” said Bayan Muna chairman Neri Colmenares.
“It’s equally dismaying that the ERC has not acted on these Meralco violations despite the persistent complaints of its customers over the years,” he noted.
“Meralco should do the proper and honorable thing by just returning the money to the rightful owners and applying it as payment or a Meralco Covid-19 Buffer Fund for electricity consumed during the enhanced community quarantine,” the Bayan Muna leader added.
“But if Meralco continues to play dumb and deaf to consumers’ complaints, the ERC should act and force the return of these funds. The return of these amounts should not stop the ERC from forcing Meralco to refund also excess charges that it has imposed during the period when we were under an enhanced community quarantine,” Colmenares stressed.
“Meralco cannot even claim the return of these funds as its donation, because the money is owned by the customers in the first place. ERC should prioritize enforcing the return of the customers’ money now when millions of Filipinos are displaced from work and cut from their source of livelihood,” he further said.
Meanwhile House Deputy Minority leader and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate said these "P40 billion to P50 billion in Meralco overcharges between 2003 and 2019, another P29.6 billion in Meralco over-recoveries from 2013 to 2018 and the additional P29 billion in Meralco bill deposits as of 2018 if given back to the people will certainly go a long way to help them especially in this time of severe crisis brought by the covid19 pandemic."
“No less than Alfredo Non, former ERC commissioner, blew the whistle in January this year and exposed the P40 billion to P50 billion in Meralco overcharges. The former electricity regulator said that Meralco padded the cost of its assets to justify over-recovery collections for more than a decade and a half,” the progressive solon explained.
"In addition to that overcharging, Bayan Muna and the group Matuwid na Singil sa Kuryente also earlier found out that, between 2013 and 2018, Meralco likewise made its customers pay a larger share of distribution cost by basing this cost on lower 3.5 percent sales growth projection and lower annual electricity sales of 30.61 billion kilowatt-hours," he added
"But Meralco’s annual electricity sales actually grew at an average of 6.78 percent per year in the last 9 years, allowing it to amass an estimated P29.6 billion in undue revenues," said the Davao-based solon.
"On top of those irregularities, Bayan Muna also exposed Meralco’s practice of collecting bill deposits, ostensibly to guarantee payment of bills by consumers, and comingling the deposits with its general funds. This practice, which is prohibited under the Electric Power Industry Reform, has unlawfully enriched Meralco by P29 billion as of 2018. This is subject of a petition with the Supreme Court," he said
"All in all, the overcharges claimed against Meralco amount to more than P108 billion," said the Deputy Minority leader.
“If Meralco and the ERC are sincere in helping consumers during this extremely difficult phase in our lives, they should not begrudge the return of this money to consumers. Otherwise, they are just perpetuating consumer oppression even more while they are being devastated by the pandemic’s economic effects. No amount of free food packs, alcohol, and payment extension will alleviate that ,” Rep. Zarate stressed.