House exposed Meralco’s illegal charge

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE– The Lopez-controlled Manila Electric Co. came under fire yesterday in Congress, with lawmakers asking the Energy Regulatory Commission to penalize Meralco for its illegal charges.

Led by Speaker Prospero Nograles, the lawmakers urged the commission to also order Meralco to immediately refund the customers for the unauthorized charge. They referred to the 89-centavo per kilowatt-hour charge Meralco imposed on its 4.4 million customers last month.

The unauthorized billing, which is apart from the systems losses Meralco passes on to its customers, was disclosed to House leaders by Pete Ilagan, president of the National Association of Electricity Consumers for Reforms Inc.

The ERC should seriously consider refunds and find out through public hearings what actions they should take against Meralco, Nograles said.

Manila Rep. Amado Bagatsing, a member of President Arroyo’s political party Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino, said: “Meralco should refund the 89 cents with dispatch or face more public outrage.”

According to Ilagan, the P0.52/kWh increase in Meralco’s generation charge last April from P4.3885/kWh in March 2008 to P4.9043 in April 2008 has no basis.

Based on Meralco’s Web site itself, Ilagan discovered that National Power Corp. sold in April 2008 a lower generation charge of P4.01/kWh to Meralco or a difference of P0.89/kWh in alleged excess charge when it billedthe consumers for P4.90/kWh.

Cavite Rep. Elpidio “Pidi” Barzaga, also a member of Kampi, also demanded a refund, saying that the overcharge is on top of other burden imposed on hapless customers.

Pasig City Rep. Roman Romulo, a member of Lakas Christian-Muslim Democrats, said ERC must also look into the possibility of penalizing Meralco for its illegal charges.

“The ERC should ask Meralco to explain. After a proper hearing, ERC should come out with a report to the public and, if warranted, corresponding penalties should be imposed by ERC,” said Romulo.

Manila Rep. Bienvenido Abante, a Lakas-CMD stalwart, echoed Romulo’s call: “This is within their [ERC] mandate, they should immediately demand from Meralco the reported overcharges and file corresponding charges.”

Party-list Rep. Joel Villanueva of the Citizens Battle Against Corruption said Meralco must show its concern now to their consumers given the spiraling prices of basic commodities and petroleum products.

“Not only is ERC expected to do something about these irregularities, they’re to be blamed to start with.

But this problem I believe can only be solved by concerted efforts from all concerns,” Villanueva said.