May 8, 2006 (STAR) President Arroyo will work to obtain assurance of a secure supply of oil from Saudi Arabia to help pull crude prices down in the world market, a Malacañang statement said as the Chief Executive was set to visit the oil-rich kingdom.

Speculations regarding a possible shortage in the oil supply due to the standoff between the United States and Iran over Tehran’s nuclear program, as well as the conflict in Nigeria, have been causing a surge in global oil prices.

Iran and Nigeria are two of the largest oil producers. An assurance of sufficient oil supply from a major oil producer like Saudi Arabia can keep prices stable and may even bring fuel prices down.

Malacañang released copies of Mrs. Arroyo’s departure statement after a chartered plane picked her up in Macau, where she was flown earlier to act as sponsor at the wedding of a daughter of Gina de Venecia, wife of Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr.

The President also said she wanted to "discuss with the Saudi government what we can do together with other energy producing nations to keep the supply of oil high and the price of oil down as much as possible."

Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said the President would bat for arrangements with the Saudi government to achieve this goal.

As a developing nation, the Philippines is hard-hit by high oil prices, she said, "and I look to our Saudi friends to help us pioneer new and innovative ways to become energy independent," the President said.

"Energy security is indispensable to our fight against poverty, which thrives in the lack of access to the modern facilities and tools to build homes and lives, jobs and careers, food on the table and safe streets.

"My diplomacy aims to uplift the poor and accord them peace of mind," the President said.

The President started her four-day state visit to Saudi Arabia and would talk about oil and energy cooperation, overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), the country’s bid for observer status in the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), fight against terrorism and peace and development in Mindanao.

"Saudi Arabia is a force in the Middle East and in the world," Mrs. Arroyo said. "That clout will increase through the millennium. It is reinforced by more than a million Filipinos that help build and secure the kingdom. Their welfare and well-being is my utmost concern."

She added that "the work of (Saudi King Abdullah) in helping bring peace to the Muslim south of the Philippines will truly be a global milestone as we demonstrate to the world that Christian and Muslim nations can stop and resolve war and move toward a more peaceful, prosperous future for mankind."

The President has stated her intent to ask Abdullah to support Manila’s bid for observer status in the OIC to help the predominantly Christian Philippines bring its Filipino-Muslim minority into the mainstream of society.

The President has been advocating for energy independence since oil prices remain volatile.

Mrs. Arroyo also said she is promoting the use of alternative fuels and tasked her officials to ensure that prices of basic commodities stay within reach of the poor.

The President said during the opening of the Chemrez’s coco-biodiesel plant in Quezon City last week that the country’s consumption of oil products was reduced by eight percent even as the economy grew five percent last year.

She said this could be attributed to the use of alternative fuels. — Aurea Calica, AFP

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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