About 2.5 million customers of Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) may stop enjoying subsidized power rates as distribution utilities process applications for eligibility under the New Lifeline Rate Program.
Meralco head of utility economics Lawrence Fernandez said the numbers may be high, as the company has about 7.6 million customers but “that only means that millions of lifeline customers before were not really marginalized.”
The lifeline rate refers to the subsidized rate given to qualified marginalized end-users as part of the socialized pricing mechanism that provides for a percentage discount, subject to the guidelines set by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC).
Fernandez said that according to the joint ERC, Department of Energy, and the Department of Social Welfare and Development rules, 4Ps beneficiaries will still have to apply with the host distribution utilities to receive the lifeline discount.
Qualified lifeline rate beneficiaries are 4Ps beneficiaries qualified households under Republic Act No. 11310 while non-4Ps are marginalized end-users living below the poverty threshold established by the Philippine Statistics Authority.
ERC chairperson Monalisa Dimalanta said the new lifeline program limits the scope of qualifications to those under the 4Ps program consuming less than the lifeline rate threshold, for example, 100 kilowatt-hour per month in the Meralco franchise area.
“The New Lifeline Rate Program is intended to limit the subsidies to marginalized consumers, aligning the identification of these consumers with the government’s 4Ps program. This also reduces the burden of subsidizing consumers, in effect, thus lowering also the rates paid,” Dimalanta said.
Last week, DOE, ERC, and the DSWD issued a tripartite advisory to distribution utilities for the implementation of the lifeline rate.
The agencies directed the distribution utilities to immediately implement the disqualification of those who are not qualified to avail of the lifeline rate, as provided under Rule 6, Section 6 of the Lifeline implementing rules and regulations.
Those living in condominiums or subdivision projects, except those residing in government housing projects and similar projects, those who are availing net-metering services, those whose consumption falls at or below the consumption threshold but are not considered qualified marginalized end-users, and those who are convicted with finality for violating Anti-Pilferage of Electricity and Theft of Electric Transmission Lines/Materials Act of 1994 shall be disqualified from availing the lifeline rate.
The distribution utilities were also directed to also begin accepting and processing applications from its consumers seeking to avail of the lifeline rate program.
Distribution utilities are expected to complete the processing of the applications on or before Aug. 1, 2023.
Starting August 2023, only those who have approved applications shall be entitled to avail of the lifeline rate program.
Under the amended law, beneficiaries of the lifeline discount should come from marginalized households, which are defined as those who are beneficiaries of the Pantawid ng Pamilyang Pilipino Program or households who secured certification from the local Social Welfare Development Office.
“The lifeline rate program in the Philippines is one of the best-designed lifeline rate programs in the world; ours is better targeted,” Energy Secretary Raphael Lotilla said. — Alena Mae S. Flores
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