Twitter, an electric company’s “noble cause”


Twitter makes many things possible.

It provides tips to clean your coffeemaker [See: Three things I learned from Twitter] or a link to a catalog featuring a series of Mercedes Benz cars — and their specs — produced for the American market in the 1960s (which I got from the person managing Donald Draper’s Twitter account.)

This latest blog piece — which includes what may well be my third  attempt at podcasting — was similarly brought about by Twitter.

In a tweet posted at around four in the afternoon of October 19, my Twitter friend @nicknich3 said:

No, it's not the lanzones we're talking about here. It's the tweet before that, my friend.

His tweet’s shortened link, in turn, brought this:

This reminded me of portions of the interview I held last June with some executives of Meralco, the Philippines’ largest electric company, regarding the firm’s Twitter strategy. [See: How Meralco got its Twitter name back]

During the interview, Kirk Campos, the company’s corporate communications staff, said that he once attended an internet convention in Manila which dealt with social media, including Facebook and Twitter.

According to Campos, a speaker in the event said that Meralco’s foray into Twitter was “a noble cause” since it was going to open the floodgates of complaints from its customers. However, the speaker said that without knowing that Campos, and his supervisor, Joe R. Zaldarriaga, the company’s media relations manager, was in attendance.

For more, you can listen to a three-minute portion of the interview, which lasted more than one and a half hours.

Twitter, Meralco\’s noble cause


From the Give Credit Where Its Due Dept.
As indicated in, the website where the podcast was uploaded, the interview was held last June 22, 2010 at the Meralco headquarters on Ortigas Avenue, Pasig City, Philippines. [See:] Among those in attendance included Campos, Zaldarriaga, and Ernesto A. Fraginal, senior manager of the company’s call center operations. No credit goes to yours truly for failing to embed podcast. What the $%#@*&^+~!

How Meralco got its Twitter name back


Two famous typhoons of 2009 — Ondoy and Pepeng — forced the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) to use Twitter.
Problem was, the Twitter handle @meralco, was already taken.
And someone else on the platform — @manilaelectric — was tweeting information different from the official version.
Here’s the link to what now appears to be the first in a series of Twitter-related stories I plan to write for GMANews.TV, the website that employs me.

Meralco, Twitter, and brownouts

Twitter is freaking amazing.
But don’t take my word for it.
After all, I’m just quoting @nicknich3, the Twitter username of a Cagayan de Oro-based electricity price analyst and founder of an Asian energy advisory group.
@nicknich3 was prompted to make the assertion after I expressed similar sentiments about Twitter, the microblogging platform that allows users to tweet, that is, to write and publish their thoughts online in just 140 characters.

Now why would I — a person who can’t shut his trap even if you paid him to do so — sing praises for an online app that offers a mode of communication shorter than a single text message?
Its limitation is its advantage.
Twitter users are generally forced to express their ideas clearly and briefly when formulating tweets and/or communicating with their followers (which is to Twitter what friends are to Facebook).
Besides being amused by witty tweets from users with names of people dead and alive, real and imagined, Twitter users also gain a deeper understanding of subjects and issues — trivial, arcane, or both — with the help of their fellow Twitter addicts.
Take my exchange with @nicknich3.
It began with, of all things, an unscheduled, temporary, one-hour brownout a few weeks ago in the area where I live.
When the lights went out at about one in the morning, I sent a tweet using my cellphone to my Twitter account, a process explained by clicking here.
My tweet, which came out on Twitter’s public timeline, also mentioned the Twitter username of Meralco — @meralco — the Philippines’ largest electric company and the lone electricity distributor in Metro Manila. (I mistakenly tweeted NGPC, when it should be NGCP for National Grid Corp. of the Philippines that runs the country’s power grid.)

As a result, as soon as whoever handled @meralco checked its Twitter account, s/he would see that I mentioned the company and was awaiting a reply.
Early the next day, the company replied that a tripping occurred in my area.

When I realized that @meralco was eager and earnest in replying through tweets, I peppered it with more questions, some of which were inane.
I asked @meralco about its stock price forecast, a question I knew it was unwilling to answer.
I then asked whether costs of getting electricity from bunker fuel plants were lower or higher than getting them from coal plants.*
That was when @nicknich3 came in.
From the looks of it, @nicknich3 was a follower of Meralco’s Twitter account who saw that @meralco was talking to me on Twitter.
He then replied to me.

After that, things started becoming a bit more fun and frenzied.
Immediately after following each other on Twitter, @nicknich3 and I talked about the new pricing scheme — the performance-based rating (PBR) — that Meralco was allowed to implement.
The PBR formulation allows companies to charge higher rates — sometimes even at shorter periods — so that these firms will be able to recover their investments (i.e., in research and development and in capital equipment) that may already be in danger of being obsolete and worthless.
The PBR is useful especially in industries such as telecommunications where technologies change so quickly.
Unfortunately, these quick advancements do not occur regularly in electricity distribution, Meralco’s core business, @nicknich3 said.
Which is why he also told me — again via Twitter — that he remains confused about the Energy Regulatory Commission’s (ERC) decision that allowed Meralco to use PBR when charging customers.
Shortly after that, our Twitter exchange ended.
I was unable to formulate an intelligent question nor continue the discussion, being a pseudo-professional deadline beater.
But one thing’s for sure, next time I write about the power industry, I know whom to call and where to go.
Thanks, @nicknich3, Twitter, and yes, you too @meralco.
*From the That’s A Fact, Jack Dept.
Consumers incurred higher power costs from March to April because of increased generation charges. Electricity used by Metro Manila is predominantly produced by power plants that burn coal, the cheapest yet dirtiest fuel. However, some coal plants were taken offline — these needed to be fixed for maintenance — and were therefore unable to produce electricity.
To make up for the shortfall, and to avoid brownouts, distributors such as Meralco bought power from plants that use bunker fuel to produce energy. Bunker fuel comes from oil, the price of which remains expensive. High costs of bunker fuel are then passed on to consumers, prompting them to pay more for electricity consumption. This was explained by me in a text message by Dean de la Paz, a consultant of the Joint Congressional Power Commission and a blogger for GMANews.TV, the website I work for.

From The Digital Credits Dept. Digital Art from

New Smart phones for Meralco executives

Smart Communications Inc. is not wasting its time.
Just a week or two after its parent’s affiliate secured an option to acquire more shares in the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco), Smart is reportedly issuing new phones to Meralco executives, maximizing the synergy between both companies.
“Smart will be issuing us new cellphones,” a source familiar with the matter said.
Smart’s parent, PLDT, together with affiliate Metro Pacific Investments Corp. — which are both headed by Manuel V. Pangilinan — controls roughly 40 percent of Meralco.
“In a week or two, I will be having two mobile phone lines, one Globe [Telecommunications Inc.] and Smart,” the source added, without indicating any details regarding the extent and coverage of the program.
This was neither confirmed nor denied by Smart although an employee who refuses to be identified said that the “[issuance of new phones for Meralco executives] is just a logical step for the company.”
The same logic follows San Miguel Corp.’s (SMC) moves when it acquired control of Petron Corp., the Philippines’ largest refiner.
San Miguel, the country’s largest food company, immediately issued Petron fleet cards to its employees, which has the effect of ending its relationship with Shell, its previous fuel supplier.
In the meantime, Smart’s rival, Globe Telecommunications Inc. is not taking any chances.
It recently sent its former post-paid customers free SIM cards that they can use to talk, call, and text gratis et amore for one whole day.
Of course, the promotion has a caveat: once you use it, you’ll presumably be bound by a contract stipulating a monthly service fee.
No thanks, Globe.
And by the way, how come Globe hasn’t billed me yet for its internet service for two months running? Is it guilty about its poor service?  But that of course, is another story altogether.