PALECO representatives explain before the City Council the calculations used for the electric consumption during the community quarantine.

The Palawan Electric Cooperative (PALECO) on Tuesday justified its decision to bill consumers based on their average consumption during the months preceding the lockdown, stating they were just following the guidelines issued by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC).

Appearing in separate summons by the City Council and the Provincial Board, PALECO officials said their billing for the months of March to May were guided by the ERC memorandum issued May 6.

The ERC memo provides that a consumer’s billing during the lockdown period of March to May will be the average of their monthly consumption during the preceding months of December 2019 to February 2020.

Marcy Quisay, 56-year-old fish vendor, expresses dismay over the alleged “over billing” of her electric consumption.

“Conservative ang computation ng average at sinunod lang namin ang ERC memorandum,” Dennis Solpico, PALECO billing supervisor, said.

Maria Lolita Decano, PALECO officer-in-charge, also clarified that a separate ERC memo issued May 22 which provides for actual meter reading applies only to enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) and modified ECQ areas and not for general community quarantine (GCQ) areas like Palawan.

Reacting to allegations that PALECO overbilled many of its consumers, particularly commercial establishments that had reduced electricity consumption during the lockdown, the PALECO officials said they were aware of the problems but committed to resolve them individually.

“Hindi namin sinasadya ang pagkakamali,” Solpico told the City Council.

The coop officials said they will look into the complaints of over billing individually and will apply the actual reading to resolve the problems.

Decano and Solpico also said that no electric disconnection may be enforced even when a consumer fails to meet the payment due by June 3.

Some consumers spoke during the meetings to complain about their raised electric bills.

Marcy Quisay, a 56-year-old fish vendor, said that she was shocked to receive her May 2020 electric bill amounting to more than P5,000 when her regular monthly bill does not exceed P1,000 for only using television and an electric fan at her home.

Rocky Lampa, a 60-year-old employee, shared the same dismay for receiving a bill with a total of P9,357. He also pointed out that even though he may be capable to pay his electric bill, he found certain discrepancies on the way he was charged.

Lampa explained that he has cleared his January and February 2020 electric bills amounting to P1,984 and P1,686, respectively. His March-April consumption amounted to P2,059, with an unpaid bill at P1,672 and a surcharge of P115. Based on PALECO’s most recent bill, he is now being asked to pay P6,357 even though he had already paid his previous electric bills, based on the receipts he presented.

Councilor Elgin Damasco moved for a resolution filing a case against PALECO, and asking ERC to issue another resolution for an “actual meter reading” instead of “estimated costs”.

Palawan board member Ryan Maminta, on the other hand, complained that the billing system was not adequately explained to the consumers.

“Hindi nakita ng mga kababayan natin ‘yon [billing system] at wala ring nangyari sa transparency ng billing pagdating sa kung actual ba o estimated ‘yon. Ibig sabihin ‘yong pinag-usapan dito na akala natin makakatulong ay nagdulot pa ng kalituhan at galit ng mga kababayan natin,” Maminta said.

Cesar Miraflores, PALECO area manager, said that Paleco is set to issue an advisory for an installment billing. However, some of the consumers who are capable of making payments would be accepted.

“We are coming up with the advisory na ilalabas, ‘yong paglalagay sa bill na installment ay hindi lang talaga nahabol. But definitely ay magbibigay kami ng advisory ngayon doon sa mga respective area offices and then doon sa installment ay io-offer namin sa mga consumer na gustong magbayad ng installment,” he said.

Miraflores also clarified that billing for disconnection would not be applicable to March and April except May.

“Ang ating due date for March hanggang July at April ay August and May 29 ay bill for May. I would say na ang billing ng March at April ay hindi masu-subject for disconnection, itong May lang ang may due date,” Miraflores said.