MANILA, APRIL 18, 2011 
By Aurea Calica - Malacañang yesterday expressed confidence that the government would be able to cushion the effects of rising prices of fuel and other commodities on the public.

The latest survey of polling firm Social Weather Stations showed that only 35 percent of the population – down by 11 percentage points from the survey conducted last quarter – expect their lives to improve in the next 12 months. Eleven percent of the respondents expect the opposite.

The decline in public optimism is attributed to the steep increase in fuel prices and the accompanying rise in the prices of basic commodities.

Palace Communications Group Secretary Herminio Coloma (photo below) said the result of the survey could be related to the drop in the net satisfaction rating of President Aquino.

He said the decline in public optimism and public approval of the Aquino administration could have been caused by events that occurred at the time of the survey.

Coloma noted that the survey was conducted from March 4 to 7, the time when oil prices skyrocketed.

“Maybe we should view this as a subset of that dominant study and the optimism of the people is influenced by events that are occurring in their environment and I think for that period, the most dominant event is the oil price hike,” Coloma said.

He said that like in the previous administration, rise in oil prices had affected public optimism.

“For us in the administration, those optimism or attitude ratings are very helpful because we look at this as an impetus for us to intensify our efforts to implement the programs of government that we have committed ourselves to,” he said.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the government is adopting several measures to address the rise in fuel prices.

Aquino announced last Friday that the government would start stockpiling fuel to boost the national oil reserve. The country remains vulnerable to the volatility of oil prices caused by the continuing political unrest in the Middle East and North Africa.

The government has also approved a one-month fuel subsidy for the transport sector and had widened the coverage of the conditional cash transfer program to assist more families.

Still under review is the proposed subsidy for farmers and fisherfolk affected by the spike in fuel prices.

FROM THE SENATE WEBSITE Press Release April 15, 2011


Senator Edgardo J. Angara said that the government should invest more in using science and technology (S&T) to help the country deal with problems caused by rising fuel and food costs, as well as disaster preparedness, as these pose real threats to the country's development but merits little government attention.

Angara, Chair of the Congressional Commission on Science Technology and Engineering (COMSTE), issued the statement in light of an announcement from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) stating that the discussions of its upcoming annual meeting center on the rising costs of food and fuel.

The ADB said that high food and fuel prices, which are complicating economic and monetary policymaking, are being compounded by the region's challenges. These other challenges include natural calamities like floods and earthquakes.?

"The ADB's upcoming annual meeting of its board of governors in Hanoi, Vietnam, will assess these immediate and long-term hurdles with ministers and senior government officials, business leaders, fellow international financial institutions, and civil society representatives," the ADB said.

Angara said that these issues can be tackled by using S&T solutions, which COMSTE has been promoting.

Angara said that COMSTE has identified the development of electric vehicles and green transport as priority projects of the commission for 2011.

Angara said that innovative Green transport systems such as electric tricycles, hybrid jeepneys, buses and electric bicycles have the potential to lessen pollution caused by conventional transportation and the dependency on fossil fuels.

The former Department of Agriculture (DA) head also said that one major target should be the achieving food security. He mentioned that COMSTE is working on plans to help develop improved farm to market logistics as well as creating more resilient agricultural systems that can withstand climate change.

Angara also noted that another COMSTE project, the Disaster Science Management Center (DSMC), is ready to assist in preparing the nation for the dealing with disasters like the devastating earthquake that recently hit Japan, now that it is in possession of the Metro Manila Earthquake Impact Reduction Study (MMEIRS), a report on the safety of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant and a Disaster and Complexity study.

"We need the DSMC to help us prepare for the earthquakes and similar disasters that will continue to threaten the country. The government needs to be able to understand how to develop an advanced and real-time information dissemination strategy so people can better prepare to handle such events," noted Angara.

The MMEIRS is a joint study that was undertaken by the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS), the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) to create a earthquake scenario damage map of Metro Manila.(30)

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved