Utility firms asked to comply with prescribed grace period

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The City Council, during last Monday’s regular session, requested all public utility companies operating in the city to strictly comply with the pertinent provisions of Republic Act (RA) 11494 or the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act II, particularly the grant of grace period to consumers and subscribers to settle their outstanding obligations.

In a resolution, city legislators stated there is a need for the various public utility companies operating in the city to implement the grant of the required grace period and the payment of the accumulated bills of consumers and subscribers on a staggered basis to ease the burden from the people on having to settle their accounts under pressure for fear of possible disconnection and imposition of unnecessary penalties.

The public utility companies that are currently operating in the city include the Benguet Electric Cooperative (BENECO), the Baguio Water District (BWD), Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company, Smart Telecommunications, Globe Telecom, Converge ICT Solutions, Sky Cable, and other communication and cable companies.

Section 4 of RA 1194 directed all institutions providing electric, water, telecommunications and other similar utilities to implement a minimum of 30-day grace period for the payment of utility bills falling due within the period of modified enhanced community quarantine without incurring interests, penalties and other charges.

Further, the law provides that after the prescribed grace period, unpaid residential, micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), and cooperatives utility bills may be settled on a staggered basis payable in less than 3 monthly installments, subject to the procedural requirements of the concerned regulatory agencies in the imposition of such installment plan without interest, penalties and other charges that will be shouldered by both the consumers and the subscribers alike.

Earlier, RA 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act that took effect last March 25, 2020 also contained provisions on the grant of grace periods on the collection and settlement of public utility bills by the consumers and subscribers and for such unsettled bills to be collected on a staggered basis without the imposition of penalties to allow the populace to cope with the serious negative effect of the current health pandemic to the employment and sources of livelihood of the people.

The Council recognized that a huge portion of the city’s population had been heavily impacted by the strict implementation of the existing community quarantine guidelines to prevent the further spread of the dreaded Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the city where some of them have lost their jobs and sources of livelihood, thus, the need for them to recover from the economic slump and earn the income to settle their accumulated utility bills.

Some utility companies have extended the period for consumers and subscribers to settle their outstanding obligations aside from providing the required grace period to settle the same without the imposition of penalties, surcharges and interests as part of their contribution in easing the effects of the pandemic to the living condition of the people in the city. By Dexter A. See

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