Group urges removal of universal charges

NBI endorses graft charges against ERC officials

Consumer group Laban Konsyumer, Inc. (LKI) is seeking to remove the two-tiered universal charges (UCs) line items in the electric bills.

LKI has filed a petition before the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) among other government agencies as respondents such as the state-run Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corporation (PSALM), the Department of Energy (DOE), Department of Finance (DOF), Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and Bureau of the Treasury (BTr).

“Petitioners respectfully pray that the Honorable Commission, henceforth, order PSALM to stop the collection of all forms of universal charges from the consumers and for the nominal parties Manila Electric Company (Meralco) and members of Private Electric Power Operators Association (PEPOA) to remove all universal charges in the billing statement of all their customers,” LKI was quoted in a Manila Bulletin report.

“Due to the effectivity of the Act (RA 11371), there are no more legal basis for PSALM to continue collecting from the consumers’ pockets the sum of approximately ₱5.0 billion for 2020,” LKI President Victorio Mario Dimagiba argued.

RA 11371 or the Murang Kuryente Act mandates the government through the DBM to allocate funds to shoulder the shortfall in PSALM’s collection of universal charges for stranded debts and stranded contract costs.

Makers of the said law intended the P208 billion Malampaya fund for such purpose, which in return the UC-SD and UC-SCC components in the electric bills could be removed the reduce the Filipino consumers’ burden.

The implementation of the law was targeted this year but was pushed back due to delays in crafting of its implementing rules and regulations (IRR).

However, PSALM President Irene Joy B. Garcia earlier implied that the collection of 5.43 centavos per kilowatt hour (kWh) UC for stranded contract costs  will be continued until June this year, while the UC-SD of 4.28 centavos per kWh will be billed until 2026.

The UC-SCC is being billed to pay for the costs that contracted independent power producers (IPPs). While UC-SD would pay for a fraction of the power sector loans that cannot be fully covered by the proceeds of the privatization of National Power Corporation’s (NPC) assets.