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Home >> World
UPDATED: 16:21, August 19, 2005
Philippines tightening belt in face of oil crisis
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Employees have three rest days every week; supermarket workers are dismissed one hour earlier at night; streets are only colored by neon lights after 9:00 p.m.; and night golfing lovers have to temporarily quit their hobby.

All above can be soon seen in the Philippines as the country is controlling the energy-consuming appetite to offset the negative impact of the climbing world oil prices on its economy and social life.

On Friday, the oil companies were summoned to join the government energy-saving campaign when the Department of Energy ( DOE) signed a rule requiring them to shorten the operation time of their gas stations from 24 hours to 20 hours per day.

"Of cause we will sacrifice business opportunities for it (DOE's rule), but we have no other option but to follow the government's call. We have to do something to prepare for another oil price hike," a manager of a Manila oil station told Xinhua.

Likewise, all other energy consuming sectors, from the government to household level, have been covered by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's administration calls to cut down their working time and activities, which at least can save electricity and oil for now before the country finds ways to lower the oil price and generate more energy self-support.

"To implement mandatory and voluntary measures for fuel demand restraint and efficient use of electricity will help combat adverse effects of relentless increase in world oil prices on the local economy," the DOE said in a statement.

To strengthen the energy-saving enforcement, Cabinet economic secretaries announced at a Thursday press conference that they would submit a basket of policy proposals to the Congress to make them legalized, in practice, more binding than the executive orders, which can only rule the government agencies and affiliations.

On the other hand, President Arroyo is seeking the cooperation from the public sectors through launching a oil summit on Friday with top officials of the big and small oil companies, heads of government-owned and -controlled corporations, and representatives of colleges and universities to forge common solutions to cushion the adverse impact of high oil prices on local economies.

"We will continue to need full public understanding and cooperation. We have shown the best of national solidarity in past crises and there is no reason why we cannot calmly, collectively and successfully deal with this one," Arroyo Thursday told a national exporter conference.

Unfortunately, the Congress, which is still occupied in the investigation of president-involved scandal cases, is slow to show its solidary support to the government's initiatives.

The Senate fell into split on Thursday on the proposal to grant emergency powers to President Arroyo to avert the emerging oil crisis with some lawmakers regarding the move out of shape in the current political and economic landscape.

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. even cited Arroyo's resignation not additional powers to the president as the solution to the looming oil crisis.

On the other hand, House Speaker Jose de Venecia expressed the willingness of the Lower House to take into consideration a wider power of the president to enforce her initiate measures in view of the seriousness of the energy problem.

Even being considered as a way of scandal-ridden government to divert the public attention, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita's alert that the escalating oil prices had become a "national security threat" is not pure exaggeration.

With rising crude oil prices, National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) has to re-calculate on its abacus for a "more realistic" economic outlook this year.

The government's official target for 2005 GDP growth is lowered at 5.1 percent from the earlier 5.3 percent, and the inflation is expected to hit 8 to 8.1 percent at the meantime, NEDA said.

Last week, the Manila-based Asian Development Bank (ADB) even reset its forecast for the Philippines' full year growth rate at 4. 7 percent, citing the oil crisis combined with low investments due to the country's political instability.

The expanded value-added tax (EVAT) bill, the major revenue- generating measure the government has been trying all to push through, has been also put under reconsideration of the Cabinet and the Congress driven by the oil crisis.

Calls were heard that the energy products should be excluded from EVAT for fear that more tax will increase prices and then fuel the energy strain.

As a net oil importer, the Philippines' oil import recorded a surge of 27.2-percent increase in the first five months of this year to 2.308 billion US dollars from 1.815 billion dollars in the same period last year, according to the DOE data.

However, from January to May, petroleum sales actually went down by 8.6 percent to 46.28 million barrels, comparing to 50.632 million barrels for the same period in 2004.

For every dollar increase in world oil prices, the country has to increase it foreign exchange requirements by 1.26 million dollars to secure its adequate oil demand, which annually stands at 126 million barrels, it said.

As the global oil prices hit its history high of 67 dollars per barrel, the gasoline products price in Metro Manila accordingly are kept within a range of 30 pesos (0.54 dollar) to 32.92 pesos ( 0.6 dollar) per liter.

To realize the 60 percent energy self-supply by 2010 set by President Arroyo last year, the government has been speeding its study and widespread of utilization of alternative fuel, such as coco biodiesel, ethanol, natural gas and autogas.

Source: Xinhua

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