When More is More

By Limuel Celebria


Yesterday, we posted on Facebook a friend’s lamentation over her utility bills which she felt were totally undue and excessive. It went this way: Lim, daw grabe ining tubig ta nga bill man. Sang previous months, tag 1,500.00 lng bill namon, karon iya nga bulan nga amo man gihapon konsumo namon nahimo nga 2,500.00! May penalty pa nga 200+ nga on time man kmi bayad! Daw gapina gusto lng ini sila sang MORE pasaka . Sang past 3 mos. ang bill namon 7k a mo., pag abut bill sang Aug. nahimo nga 11,000! 4k gd ang saka nga amo man gihapon gamit namon kg konsumo? Daw indi maayo ni ang ginahimo nila ky imbes buligan mga tawo subong nga pandemic, gina puga nila kg gina kuartahan tapat mga consumers , check abi inyo da kon nagsaka man. Daw indi husto ining ginahimo nila ah. Dapat ma reklamo gd kita or else sigihon nila ini nga panguarta sa mga tawo. Im writing and telling you this ky ara ka sa social media , basi mausisa nimo ini. Thanks gd.

For our friends and readers who don’t understand Hiligaynon, she was complaining about the steep (nearly double) increase in her water and electricity bills these past months. When we posted her woes as requested, some of our social media friends were also quick to raise their issues with the utility companies.

I am not a More consumer. My power distributor is Ileco 1 and I have the same issues about my power bill which also nearly doubled. If you were updated with the news, you will recall that the House of Representatives conducted last month a congressional inquiry into Meralco also because of consumer complaints about excessive bills. I understand the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) of Iloilo is set to call the management of the province’s three electric cooperatives to tell them to explain the increase in bills of power consumers province-wide.

Clearly, the problem is not unique to More.

I have not read of any news as to whether Meralco was able to give an explanation to the members of the congressional inquiry. A provincial capitol lock down early this week probably prevented the SP inquiry into our power coops. Likewise, my personal inquiry 3 weeks to a member of the Ileco 1 board of director remains unanswered until today.

However, my fb post was quickly answered by MORE Spokesman Jonathan Cabrera just a little more than an hour after my post went up.  Between Meralco and Iloilo’s power coops, More has the more coherent and logical explanation over billing issues.

We are well aware that More take over power distribution in Iloilo City was sticky, to say the least. The previous franchise holder – PECO. A legal issue involving an eminent domain provision in the franchise granted to More pends at the Supreme Court but, following a Writ of Possession issued by the Regional Trial Court, More took over the distribution of power to Iloilo City consumers last February 29.

Evidently, there were migration issues. There was no formal turnover of records from PECO to More. The new power firm virtually had to start from scratch, building up a database for around 60,000 power consumers in the city. One problem everybody knows is that the ones paying the bill are more often not the ones whose names actually appear on the bill.

Exacerbating the problem is the Covid 19 lockdown that has limited the movement of personnel. (This was one of the problems encountered by the power coops which resorted to “averaging” (in short, guessing) the electric consumption of a concessionaire for the months of March and April.  More’s first billing actually covered more than two months consumption. This explains some of the glaring disparity with previous bills.

Here are also some other possibilities: There are also those who continued to pay the previous distributor (PECO) which means that More has no actual record of their payment.

More also began installing some 15,000 new meters, replacing the old ones which were no longer accurate, slowed down by age. Because of this, it’s possible to experience a higher or maybe even a lower consumption.  In the past, with unreliable meters, PECO used the “averaging” tactic.

It is also possible that consumers actually have increased consumption. The lockdown has forced most people to stay at home and thus spend more hours in front of the TV, turn on their aircons or electric fans for a longer time, cook more often with their electric appliances. This has a cumulative effect.

And then there’s the order from the Energy Regulatory commission to allow deferred and staggered payment because of the pandemic.

Many people actually just look at the bottom line of their bill and complain, “Hey my bill has increased! Why?” If they looked closer, they’d see that the bill actually covers a longer period than usual. In truth, Cabrera said, More charges less per kilowatt hour (about 0.70) than PECO did in their last billing. If your house consumes about 300kwh per month, that’s about a savings of P210.00 per month on your monthly bill.

Still, More does not discount the possibility that indeed the billings were in error.

“We apologize for any inconveniences and delays,” said Cabrera. “Rest assured that, if we find any inaccuracies and errors, we will immediately adjust and correct.”

Mr. Cabrera said More is more than willing to sit down with any complaining customer to discuss their bill. Cabrera advises complainants to call their hotlines: MORE Power Iloilo 24/7 Hotline: PLDT: (033) 3272985 (033) 3236619 GLOBE: 09176375214 SMART: 09190720626.

Or they can visit us at Hotel del Rio, he added.

As for your water bill, I don’t know if the current company operating the local water district is inclined to issue any explanations. We all know the utility company as Metro Iloilo Water District but this quasi-government institution, classified as Government Owned and Controlled (GOCC) it has been turned over by its Board of Directors to a new, private company. And they did it without even consulting the consumers nor the local governments.