42,000 ‘lifeline consumers’ in North Cotabato exempt from paying electricity bills

KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews / 21 April) – At least 42,000 “lifeline” electric consumers, or those whose power consumption is less than 25 kilowatt hours in a month, in North Cotabato do not have to pay their bills for the month of April.

Normally, a residential electric cooperative member could consume at least 100 kilowatts in a month.

Engineer Godofredo Homez, general manager of the Cotabato Electric Cooperative (Cotelco), said lifeline consumers belong to the “poorest among the poor” whom they want to support or help while the province is under enhanced community quarantine.

He said these lifeline consumers represent at least 28 percent of Cotelco’s total service connections in the province of North Cotabato.

Last week, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles announced that lifeline consumers, which he defined as those consuming less than 50KWH of electricity, will be exempt from paying their bills for April and May.

But the Philippine Rural Electric Cooperatives Association, Inc. (PhilRECA) said in its website that some electric cooperatives may not afford giving subsidy to consumers using 50KWH. Thus, other cooperatives may have lower cutoff, or offer discounts.

Cotelco serves 150,000 connections in the towns of Banisilan, Carmen, Kabacan, Matalam, M’lang, Tulunan, President Roxas, Antipas, Arakan, Magpet, Makilala, and Kidapawan City in North Cotabato.

Payment for the April billing of these lifeline electric consumers would be subsidized by the cooperative under the “Pantawid Liwanag Program,” which amounts to P5.4 million.

This, Homez explained, is part of the cooperative’s corporate social responsibility (CSR).

He added the lifeline consumers were selected by the Energy Regulatory Commission under ERC Case Number 2001-969.

Homez stressed that subsidy for lifeline consumers is not part of Cotelco’s system loss.

He also clarified that only the April billing is part of the Pantawid Liwanag Program. “Our lifeline consumers should pay their January to March bills,” the Cotelco officer said.

The Pantawid Liwanag Program is also being implemented by other electric cooperatives connected with (PhilRECA). (Malu Cadelina Manar / MindaNews)