Telcos asked to extend free load, date of subscribers

TELECOMMUNICATIONS companies led by Globe Telecom Inc. and Smart Communications Inc. on Friday were urged to extend their subscribers free load and data to contact their loved ones and access critical information and online services during coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) pandemic.

House Deputy Minority leader and Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate and Bayan Muna chairman Neri Colmenares made their appeal as the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Luzon will enter its fourth week and the people are still awaiting the direct economic relief from the national government.

"Luzon has been on lockdown for three weeks, while many areas in the country are also in different levels of community quarantine. As it is, many of our kababayans have no way of contacting their relatives in other parts of the country and access needed information but through online via their mobile gadgets. Yet, this, too, is now becoming difficult: many of them do not have enough money because they do not have work, and, even if they have money to buy, stores or retailers are closed so they cannot reload," Zarate stressed.

"We have received many reports of these concerns by our people, thus, we call on the telcos to help out and fullfil their social responsibility during this time of crisis," Zarate pointed out.

"This free load help is, in fact, a drop in the bucket if we take into account that the telcos still have a pending case to refund consumers of at least P7 billion since November 2011 for overcharging their text messaging," he said.

Zarate added that other than the immediate mass production of personal protection equipment (PPEs), disinfectants and other frontline medical needs, the government should also prioritize the purchase or production of more ventilators.

"The insufficient, even lack, of ventilators has worsened the problem faced by many COVID-hit countries," said Zarate as he called on local car manufacturers to help in the production of ventilators.

"Ventilators are critical for COVID patients and others for them to have a fighting chance to live.”

Colmenares reiterated Bayan Muna's call for Manila Electric Company (Meralco), Manila Water Company Inc. and Maynilad Water Services Inc. to waive at least one month of their bill collection.

"Dapat talagang huwag ng singilin ng Meralco, Maynilad at Manila Water ang isang buwan ng kanilang serbisyo. Tulong na sana nila ito sa mga kapwa nating Filipino na wala na ngang makain dahil sa lockdown ay mababaon pa sa utang dahil sa bayarin sa kuryente at tubig. Wag naman sana na tubo at kita lang ang iniisip nila," said Colmenares.

The progressive leader issued the statement as Meralco said that they would first average the three-month consumption of consumers for the March-April bill then collect it.

“Afterwards they would check the meters for the actual electricity use and charge the consumers again,” said Colmenares.