HOUSE Deputy Minority leader and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate along with Bayan Muna chairman Neri Colmenares Tuesday welcomed the Energy Regulatory Commission's (ERC) order for Meralco to conduct actual meter reading.They also called on the ERC and DOE to break the Meralco monopoly.
“Many of us suffered electric bill shock when we received our electric bills recently. The order of ERC requiring Meralco to conduct actual meter reading before issuing electric bills is certainly welcome. This practically orders Meralco to withdraw their shockingly high bills that led to public protests. This is the result of the continuing vigilance and protest of consumers," said the Bayan Muna chairman
"Meralco should also refund the payments of those who have already paid considering that these were not based on actual meter reading. This is without prejudice to our call for the condonation of one month electricity consumption of consumers of at least 100 Kwh,"he said.
"Should Meralco be found to have committed market power abuse or overcharging we ask that ERC should impose fines or price control on Meralco under Section 1 [f] of the ERC “Guidelines to Govern Imposition of Administrative Sanctions” pursuant to Section 46 of EPIRA. Whatever fines imposed must be paid by Meralco back to ots customers for the damage it has caused on consumers," said Colmenares.
Rep. Zarate meanwhile said that "this is the problem caused by the monopoly of Meralco as over 6.9 million customers are now forced to continue to be under Meralco’s franchise despite the many issues against it through the years."
"Meralco has incurred the public ire on many occasions such has its bill shock in 2013 during the Malampaya shutdown, its collection of billions in Bill Deposit payments from consumers and now this latest “electric bill shock” fiasco, but we are forced to continue having Meralco as our service provider," said the progressive solon.
"This again highlights the problem caused by privatization of the electricity sector under Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) instead of government control and ownership of public utilities such as electricity distribution," said the Deputy Minority leader.
"We are challenging the ERC and the Department of Energy (DOE) to begin the process of breaking Meralco's monopoly. More importantly, as this current crisis has shown, there is now an urgent need for the nationalization of the energy sector, including Meralco, so that the public will no longer suffer every time these power oligarchs imposes questionable rates. Congress should make the repeal of EPIRA and the nationalization of the industry as a priority as well," he said.
"We hope, too, for the Supreme Court to already rule on our petition for the implementation of the Retail Competition Open Access or RCOA, which at least allows competition and gives the people the opportunity to choose their distribution utility instead of being tied up with Meralco forever. Pending the repeal of EPIRA and the charting of a new energy framework, at least the people will no longer suffer under the Meralco monopoly but will have a choice and the power to punish Meralco by changing service provider," ended Rep. Zarate.