SC urged to penalize Meralco for TRO violation

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Monday, March 17, 2014

MILITANT party-list group Bayan Muna asked the Supreme Court (SC) on Monday to punish the Manila Electric Company (Meralco) for not complying with the stay order on the record power rate hike.

In an omnibus motion, Bayan Muna said Meralco should be cited for contempt for coming up with a confusing billing format last February, which included in its "total amount due" the P4.15 per kilowatt-hour rate hike restrained by the SC.

Meralco apologized for the lapse as it admitted that it issued the bill with questionable format to 434,000 consumers out of its 5.5 million customers in Metro Manila and nearby provinces. Of the consumers issued the questioned bill, 37,000 paid the restrained amount.

"Meralco's collection agents, on the other hand, collected the amounts that were not supposed to be paid. They did not inform Meralco's customers that they need to pay and the collection agents can only collect amounts sans the questioned generation charges," the motion read.

Bayan Muna also asked the High Court to require Meralco to submit a compliance report showing the total number of consumers who paid the generation charge before the TRO was issued, how many paid as a result of the confusing billing format, how much is the interest gathered from the payments of consumers before the TRO, and how Meralco has complied with the TRO.

The stay order issued in December 23 last year was extended for 60 days or until April 22.

The Court also barred some power producers from forcing Meralco to pay for the electricity it purchased late last year, which the distributor used to justify the collection of the assailed generation charge.

Tight supply caused by the maintenance shutdown of the Malampaya natural gas plant off Palawan and forced outage of some power plants pushed Meralco to source power from the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM), whose tradings at the time were put under question.

Last week, the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) voided the spot market prices that were implemented during the Malampaya shutdown in November and December 2013 and ordered Philippine Electricity Market Corp. (PEMC), operator of the WESM, to recalculate the prices during this period.

ERC estimates to cut the increase in generation charge by half, thus, consumers may not shoulder the full P4.15-rate hike. (Sunnex)

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