Du30 OKs extension of no-disconnection policy for lifeline consumers


After numerous appeals and moves over the no-disconnection policy for lifeline electricity consumers amid the COVID-19 pandemic, President Rodrigo Duterte has approved the Department of Energy’s (DOE) recommendation for its extension, as the government has prioritized consumer welfare.

“I have given my order to all the Distribution Utilities to submit their programs and strategies that will help alleviate the lives of the lifeliners in these crucial times,” Energy Sec. Alfonso Cusi said in a statement.

“As we grappled with the peak of COVID-19 transmissions last year, the DOE took proactive steps to help consumers, most especially those at the margins, keep afloat in the midst of grave health and livelihood concerns,” he continued.

In a separate briefing, Cabinet Sec. Karlo Nograles cited DOE data revealing that while lifeline consumers, or those consuming up to 200 kilowatt hours monthly, comprise a third of the customer base, they account only for three percent of electricity sales.

To date, the DOE and other power-related government agencies have been assisting lifeline customers by directing energy entities to observe the grace period and staggered payments for unpaid bills provided under the Bayanihan laws, assistance under the National Electrification Administration’s Pantawid Liwanag Program, and the suspension of the Universal Charge for Stranded Contract Cost and Stranded Debts to be covered by the Malampaya fund under the Murang Kuryente Act.

With the President’s directive, the DOE appealed to consumers who able to pay their bills on time to do so, to help manage cash flow in the energy supply chain.

The department has also called on the Energy Regulatory Commission to closely monitor pass-through charges.

Manila Electric Company (MERALCO) spokesman Joe Zaldarriaga said the power giant will comply with the government’s directive.
“[We] will wait for the specific guidelines from the [DOE]. We would like to assure our customers that we will continue to assist all of them in addressing their billing issues,” he said in a statement.