MANILA – Meralco has laid down the mechanics for refunding P6.9 billion to its customers starting this June. This, after the company received the formal order from the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to return to customers an average 75 centavos per kilowatthour every month until August.
Residential customers will get a bigger refund because their systems loss is bigger compared to industrial customers of Meralco. Per Meralco estimates, 79 centavos per kilowatt hour will be shaved off from the bills of residential customers in the next three months.
Larry Fernandez, head, utility economics at Meralco, explained further:”Kung ikaw ay industrial, kumukuha ka sa high voltage, iba yung transmission at system loss charge mo; sa kanila the refund rate will be smaller. If you are a household, total refund rate is around 0.79 and 0.79 does not yet include taxes.”
Meralco said it could no longer rush the refund in time for the May billing.
Joe Zaldarriaga, Meralco’s head for external communications, said this is because the bills for May have been sent out to customers. “We are already in the middle of the month. We prepare bills early first week of the month, so hindi na ho talaga aabot [it really can’t make it this month. The bills have been released, and we only got the ERC order yesterday].”
Refund from 2003
Meanwhile, one more refund awaits the 820,000 customers of Meralco: the balance of the P30-billion refund that the Supreme Court ordered in 2003 in connection with its ruling barring Meralco’s move to pass on its corporate income tax to customers.
The 820,000 customers represent the rest of a total 5.2 million entitled to the 2003 refund, for which P4.7 billion still has to be returned, out of a total of P30 billion.
Meralco said it has thus far refunded 84 percent of its 5.2 million customers.
The ones who did not get their refund earlier are those with incomplete documents or who can no longer be found by Meralco.
Meanwhile, Meralco filed a petition to extend to December 2018 the ERC deadline to pay affected customers.
The ERC is studying what can be done in case the P4.7 billion can no longer be returned.
One option is to set up an escheat account; another is to divide the amount among the existing customers.
Atty. Rexie Baldo-Digal, ERC spokesperson, said all options are being studied, and the “basic principle” is that any move should be allowed by law and considers “the best interest [of the] consumer.”
Rep. Carlos Zarate of the militant alliance Bayan Muna said, “it would be better for ERC to expedite the P4.7-billion refund so that customers will have an additional relief.”
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