Dapat long! Lawmakers are pushing for reimbursements for water, electricity and internet cuts

A lawmaker on Thursday pushed for a proposal that would require utility companies to reimburse or adjust consumers’ monthly bills for unannounced and unscheduled outages that aren’t caused by natural disasters.

In a statement, Davao Oriental MP Cheeno Miguel Almario said the disruptions in utility services such as electricity, water and internet were having a negative impact on people and the economy, resulting in actual and potential losses.

Almario said House Bill 8191 aims to address the losses consumers incur as a result of forfeiting of utility companies’ fixed and overhead charges by the minute when there are unannounced or unintentional business interruptions.

“There’s a sort of agreement between utility providers and consumers that in exchange for the right payment, you get the right service,” Almario said.

He said the measure will oblige companies to uphold the standards they guaranteed when they applied and were granted concessions to operate.

He pointed out that these concessions last for 25 years, arguing that the losses suffered by people and the country accumulate over that time.

“We routinely receive our monthly bills, regardless of power outages, water service disruptions, or internet connection issues. These utilities do not fail to charge us even when they do not deliver the promised quality of service. We hope to remedy that,” said Almario.

He cited that the Philippines was the “poorest internet” country in Southeast Asia, according to Austria-based company World Data Lab.

In terms of global internet performance, he said the country ranks 79th and 41st in mobile and broadband speeds, respectively, based on Ookla’s March 2023 report.

He also cited a report released in May 2023 by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) that said the economy loses about PHP 556 million from a five-hour power outage.

He said once the bill goes into effect, utilities will have to repay their customers through refunds or bill adjustments if cumulative service disruptions reach 24 hours or more, including subscribers to prepaid services.

The minute-based withdrawal applies from the beginning of the unintentional and unannounced interruption of the electricity, water and telecommunications services until the service is fully restored.

The minute-based collection rates are set by the Energy Regulatory Commission, the local water authority and the National Telecommunications Commission, in coordination with the other government agencies concerned where appropriate. (PNA)

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