, July 15 , 2004
By Marianne V. Go  -  The Philippine Leisure and Retirement Authority (PLRA) is asking for more incentives to be able to lure more foreign retirees to the country.

According to PLRA Deputy General Manager Jose T. Marcelo Jr., the PLRA is drafting a bill that would grant various incentives that include exemption to registered retirees and their beneficiaries from paying inheritance tax, as well as exemption from registered retirees from obtaining an Alien Employment Certificate.

Likewise, the bill also proposes that investments made by retirees and projects initiated by the PLRA would be entitled to incentives under the Investment Priorities Plan (IPP).

PLRA-registered retirees are allowed to invest in five areas: condominium units; new or existing corporations; long-term lease of land and construction of a house; golf shares and stocks traded in the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE).

So far, the PLRA has registered more than 10,330 retirees from 70 countries, which include Japan, Korea and China.

PLRA-registered retirees must maintain a dollar account in an accredited bank for six months.

After six months, the dollar deposit may be maintained or converted into a peso account or withdrawn but strictly for investment purposes.

Perez lauds Magna Carta for residential power users By Donnabelle L. Gatdula  (Star)

Energy Secretary Vincent S. Perez lauded yesterday the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) for promulgating the Magna Carta for residential electricity consumers.

"Each and every consumer deserves to be protected from any discriminating or anti-competitive practices by the distribution utilities serving in the franchise area," Perez said.

Under the Magna Carta, the consumers are entitled to access to quality, reliable, affordable, safe and regular supply of electric power and to be accorded courteous, prompt and non-discriminatory service by the electric service provider.

Consumers are likewise entitled to be informed and given adequate access to information on matters affecting electric service. In particular, all offices of distribution utilities are mandated to provide bulletin boards where major announcements issued such as rate schedules and any changes thereon; other service charges; terms and conditions of service; standard rules and regulations governing the operation of distribution utilities; and general information on metering must be posted.

A distribution utility is also mandated to announce two days ahead before any scheduled power interruptions through print or other means of interactive media. However, in areas were media are inaccessible, the distribution utility must set up a bulletin board where announcements of scheduled power interruptions will be posted in an area that could easily be seen by its customers, preferably along roadsides, or at the entrance to the city/municipal hall or public market.

For disconnections due to non-payment of electric bills, a written notice must be presented to the customer 48 hours before the disconnection. Likewise, disconnections shall not be made on any weekday beyond 3 p.m., Saturdays, Sundays and official holidays or when one of the permanent occupants is sick and dependent on a life support system requiring electricity; during the funeral wake of a deceased permanent resident of the premises; or a customer successfully proves he did not receive a statement of account or disconnection notice.

Whenever the electric service is disconnected due to non-payment of electric bills, the Magna Carta states that the utility must immediately reconnect not exceeding 24 hours from payment.

Perez assured consumers that with the Magna Carta, consumer will not be deprived of electric service without due process of law.

The Magna Carta likewise states that a distribution utility must not refuse or discontinue service to an applicant, who is not in arrears to the distribution utility, even if there are unpaid bills due from the premises occupied by the applicant on account of an unpaid bill of a prior tenant.

In case of regular electric bills or billing adjustments due to stoppage or failure of the meter to register the full and correct amount of energy consumed, or due to the illegal use of electricity, the consumer shall have the right to pay under protest for purposes of continuous supply of electricity by the utility, without prejudice to a complaint to be filed by the customer against the imposition of the bill or billing adjustment.

To avoid circumstances that constitute prima facie evidence of illegal use of electricity, a consumer is not allowed to perform acts of illegal use such as presence inside the electric meter of salt, sugar and other elements that could result in the inaccurate registration of the meterís internal parts to prevent its accurate registration of consumption of electricity; the presence of any wiring connection which affects the normal operation or registration of the electric meter; the presence of a bored hole on the glass cover of the electric meter; and the presence in any part of a building or its premises of a current reversing transformer, jumper, shorting or shunting wire, loop connection or any other similar device.

Perez said that should there be complaints with the distribution utility and no settlement has been reached or any other violations of the ERC laws, rules, and regulations, guidelines and policies, consumers may then file a case against the utility firm.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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