The Board of Directors of the First Catanduanes Electric Cooperative, Inc. (FICELCO) has approved the grant of a 20-percent discount on the cooperative’s charges in the March 2020 billing to all 50,709 residential consumers in its service area.
According to the Pantawid Liwanag Program approved by the Board in its special meeting last week, the discount will benefit all residential Member-Consumer-Owners (MCOs) regardless of their level of energy consumption.
Set to receive the benefit are the following numbers of MCOs per town: Bagamanoc, 2,084; Baras, 2,840; Bato, 4,513; Caramoran, 4,558; Gigmoto, 1,530; Pandan, 3,380; Panganiban, 1,899; San Andres, 7,447; San Miguel, 2.892; Viga, 3,881; and, Virac, 15,682.
The subsidy will appear on the May 2020 power bill as an additional line item on the Statement of Account (SOA), it stated.
It will be based on FICELCO’s Distribution, Supply, and Metering (DSM) charges on the March 2020 power bill of the residential consumers, which consists of P3.98 per kilowatt-hour and the P5 per customer being charged by the cooperative against their power consumption.
For March 2020, the cooperative said, the total kilowatt-hour sales for residential users came up to a total of 2.751,546.93.
Applying the DSM charges on the total residential power sales, the DSM revenue for March was P11,204,976.94, for a total discount of P2,240,995.39.
The funding will be taken from the savings generated by the cancelled institutional programs and activities of the cooperative because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the declaration of the national state of emergency, particularly the District Elections and the Annual General Membership Assembly (AGMA). The two activities along with generated savings of P2,786,160.00, more than enough to cover FICELCO’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program.
General Manager Engr. Raul V. Zafe had submitted to the Board a proposal on the cooperative’s joining the electricity subsidy program dubbed as “Pantawid Liwanag” and targeted at poor Filipino power consumers whose income and livelihood have been sharply reduced by the COVID-19 crisis.
The program, however, covers only those consuming 20 kWh or less per month, according to the 2017 decision of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) on the lifeline rate and level for marginalized residential customers.
However, the board headed by Pres. Rodolfo Vargas decided that the original proposal would be appropriate, as the number of lifeline consumers varies from month to month. They also agreed with GM Zafe that the fund will not be enough to cover the electricity charges of the beneficiaries for the March and April billing periods.
Instead, the incumbent directors agreed to extend the discount to all residential consumers, regardless of consumption level.
In a memorandum dated April 14, 2020, NEA Administrator Edgardo Masongsong directed cooperatives to realign the budget already appropriated for the deferred district elections and the cancelled AGMA into working capital requirements necessary to sustain their operations and for the “Pantawid” program.
GM Zafe disclosed that while some consumers have paid their bills for the March billing period, the amount the cooperative collected would not be enough to sustain its operations and ensure adequate electric service once the ECQ is lifted.
Last week, FICELCO received an advisory on the “Pantawid Liwanag” program from the Philippine Rural Electric Cooperatives Association, Inc. (PHILRECA), which initiated it as a corporate social responsibility program aligned with the government’s efforts to curb the socioeconomic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the poorest of the poor.
This is in addition to the steps already taken by the power distribution utilities, such as the 30-day payment extension to electricity consumers and the cancellation of surcharges on late payments and power disconnections for consumers who failed to pay on time.