MANILA,  September 24, 2004
Malacañang sought to downplay yesterday reports that the country faces an energy crisis and a surge in oil prices, saying President Arroyo has already taken action to avert the projected energy supply shortage in the immediate future.

"The energy crisis will only happen if we would just sit on the problem," Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye said in an official statement.

"But we will not reach that point because of the cooperation and partnership of the executive and the legislature in putting our economic house in order, and the spirit of sacrifice that our people are willing to uphold," he added.

Bunye did not go into details but was apparently referring to the package of reform measures affecting the fiscal and energy sectors, which the President laid down in her first state of the nation address before Congress last July, a month after receiving a fresh six-year mandate.

Senate President Franklin Drilon, in his address before the Manila Overseas Press Club "Congress Night" Wednesday, sounded the alarm on the potential breakout of another energy crisis in the Philippines.

He said aside from the looming fiscal crisis due to the government’s burgeoning budget deficit, the country may experience power blackouts similar to or worse than what happened more than a decade ago.

"Indeed, (a) fiscal crisis coupled with (a) power crisis will render catastrophic consequences (for) the Philippine economy," Drilon said.

Mrs. Arroyo expressed optimism yesterday that by working together, the nation’s leaders — particularly those in the executive branch and in Congress — can do a lot to help protect Filipinos from the feared economic crisis that economists project may hit the country within two to three years.

"We can beat the odds even as our nation faces the threat of a grave economic crisis — those are the odds — if we act on time and in tandem," she said.

"If we work together to beat the odds, eventually — not this year, maybe not next year — but eventually, we will get to the stage of growing seven percent for seven years which will sustain prosperity for the greatest number of our people," the President vowed.

She impressed this upon leaders and members of the House of Representatives, led by Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr., in her address at the Legislative Agenda Planning Conference held at the Land Bank Plaza in Malate, Manila.

The President also presented anew her administration’s battlecry, "Beat the odds," which stands for the first letters of the 10-point legacy agenda she vowed to achieve by the end of her six-year term.

"Indeed the economic crisis we are facing now constitutes the odds but it is the proper venue in which to gather together our shared dreams and aspirations for this great nation," she said.

Mrs. Arroyo told the congressmen that "our people’s salvation depends on the cooperation of its leaders with the people and one another. With a collective heave of great political will, we will break the yoke of mounting debt and free our people from the vicious cycle of poverty."

"This is the time for sterner yet greater days when action takes precedence over workers. This is the time for unity. This is the time for patriotic fervor... Together, let us beat the odds," she added.

Bunye, in the same official statement, also tried to assuage the public’s apprehensions over the warning issued by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) that the Philippines, along with Thailand, will be the worst hit by rising prices of crude oil compared to other Asian countries.

"The concerns of the ADB were already being seriously addressed long before they were aired," he said.

In its report, the ADB said most developing economies in Asia, such as the Philippines, were dependent on imported crude oil and are more energy-intensive and less energy-efficient than most industrial countries.

"With the positive response across various sectors to the measures and reforms we have been implementing, we are confident that we can sustain the trend as we combine the spirit of sacrifice and enterprise to move the nation forward," Bunye said.

"We are moving in the right direction in terms of stabilizing our budget, and business confidence is firm and rising," he added. — Marichu Villanueva

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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