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  • By : Delmar O. Cariño
  • Apr 28, 2020

Pantawid Liwanag: The ECs' CSR for the ECQ

The decision of the country’s electric cooperatives to implement the Pantawid Liwanag program shows that as key players in the power industry, they too are sensitive to the clamor of their member consumer owners (MCOs) for any form of relief from their electric bills.

The initiative is its own brand of corporate social responsibility which, although not as fantastic as the CSR of corporate players, would mean a lot in these times when a dreaded virus has practically paralyzed more than half of human activity and instilling fear and uncertainty no end.

But electricity is still electricity. It has to be supplied no matter what the conditions are or else the lack of it would further aggravate an already crippled economy and spur chaos that could have further spiraled had not authorities exercised the might of state power.

Knowing that the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) has taken much toll on marginalized consumers, banks began to relax loan payment terms while other institutions reset payment periods. For electricity users, the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) suspended the collection of the Feed -In-Tariff Allowance and directed distribution utilities to provide a thirty day grace period for the payment of power bills. Lately, the rate regulator modified the order and allowed consumers to pay their bills into four equal installments minus surcharges.

The inquisitive glance then went towards the direction of the ECs. “How about you, ECs?” and “ECs, what can you offer too?” became the fodder of the hour.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles sort of created a stir when he publicly announced in his virtual presser that the electric cooperatives will supply free of charge the electricity of those who are consuming not more than 50 kilowatt a month. Earlier, National Electrification Adminsitration (NEA) Administrator Edgardo Masongsong broadcasted on national television that 80 of the country’s electric cooperatives are able and willing to provide subsidy to lifeline consumers.

Consumers went gaga over the news. The only flaw was that it created an impression that the electric consumption for the ECQ was free regardless of customer class. But thanks to PHILRECA, it immediately issued a clarification that the program would only target a particular set of customers.

PHILRECA coined it Pantawid Liwanag and the reaction among the ECs was overwhelming. The program encouraged the ECs to study the provision of a subsidy for electricity consumers particularly the so-called lifeline consumers. The ECs were advised to use their budget for the Annual General Membership Assembly (AGMA) and district elections that were earlier ordered suspended for this year by NEA.

As of date, PHILRECA said more than P300 million has been coughed up by the ECs for the CSR program. And while it may look miniscule per kilowatt hour, the total subsidy for lifeline consumers could well impact on their daily needs since the use of electricity is daily.

The ECs though varied in terms of the threshold of consumption they declared as free. The subsidy for 50 kwh is understandably tasking that’s why ECs, working under different financial pages, opted to declare free power for those who use 30 kwh and below. Some set the subsidy at 20 kwh or 40 kwh.

This task is not peanuts. ECs are non-stock and non-profit. Compared to private investor owned utilities (PIOUs) that can draw from their profit margins for big CSR undertakings, ECs do not have the luxury of a standby fund for such eventuality. The rate methodology of ECs simply begs no mercy for any fabulous return on investment.

But still the ECs did their best for some stretching. Thus, they were able to juggle their limited resources for the Pantawid Liwanag. This is because they too commiserate with their consumers.