DOJ urges consultation on seniors' electricity discount

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Justice (DOJ) urged lawmakers to consult with electric companies about a proposed amendment to the Expanded Senior Citizens' Act of 2010, seeking to change the cap of the discount for the elderly's consumption of electricity.

One of the amendments under House Bill 3169 is to give senior citizens a 5% discount on the first 100 kWh of electricity. This is a change from the original condition wherein seniors will only be granted the discount if their monthly consumption does not exceed 100 kWh.

But the position of Manila Electric Company (Meralco) is either to keep the law as it is, or to pass the cost of senior citizens’ electricity bill discount on to other consumers.

Biliran Representative Rogelio Espina sought DOJ’s comment on the bill.

Although the department lauded the measure as "inclusive of a wider socio-economic echelon of senior citizens," it is concerned about Meralco's position. 

"If this is the case, this department is of the view that the Energy Regulatory Commission shall also be invited to solicit their views on how the measure could be fully enjoyed by the senior citizens without shifting the cost to subsidizing customers," Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said in a 3-page opinion on the bill.

She agreed with AKO BICOL Representative Rodel Batocabe that representatives of electric cooperatives in the country should be consulted.

"A quick technical study on the proposed discount is also suggested to be conducted especially on the impact of a 50-peso discount per month that a senior citizen consumer could avail of vis-a-vis the economic of scale generated by the electric companies from the majority of its subsidizing consumers," the opinion read.

The discount is meant per household, regardless of the number of senior citizens residing there. It also applies only when the utility is registered in the name of the senior citizen. – Rappler.com

Electric meter image via Shutterstock