gma:  lower  power  rates  fruit  of  economic  gains

FEBRUARY 28, 2007 (Office of the Press Secretary, Malacanang) President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo considers the latest reduction in power rates as a classic example of the country’s economic gains flowing down to the people.

In a roundtable discussion this afternoon in Malacanang, the President said the Filipino people are finally harvesting the seeds of fiscal discipline and good governance that the government has planted.

"The cut in power rates is part of the great story of economic gains flowing down to the people. This is a timely harvest on the seeds of fiscal discipline and good governance that we have planted in the field of optimism and hope," she said in a statement.

The President pointed out that this is a clear and compelling reason for all Filipinos to stay the course and not be distracted "by the pullback of destructive politics."

Housewife Cora Gloria, a mother of three who was among those in the roundtable discussion, told the President that her power rate bill was lower this month (February) compared to last month.

"Itong huling perfect power adjustments, pag mababa ang langis at dolyar bumaba rin iyong tsini-charge, doon nagre-reflect na bumababa ang electric bill, so nararanasan talaga. Lalo na ngayon na itong Napocor ay binabawasan iyong tsini-charge sa Meralco," the President explained.

The President told Gloria that through her barangay, she could seek micro-finance assistance for her to open up a small business.

Gloria, for her part, thanked the President for launching the "Pamilihang Bayan" and "Botika ng Bayan" where she could buy cheaper products and medicines.

Energy Regulatory Commission chairman Rodolfo Albano, Jr. said that the National Power Corporation (Napocor) power rate reduction by eight centavos per kilowatt-hour (kwh) will apply to the Feb. 26 to March 25, 2007 billing period. The reduction, he said, could go up by 18 centavos in the next 10 months.

Energy Secretary Raphael Lotilla said all payments made by Napocor for the importation of oil had been reduced due to the stronger peso.

Lotilla informed the President that the official contract price of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) in Singapore will be reduced by one percent by next month. Kerosene prices, he added, had also been reduced by 30 centavos two days ago.

Consumer and Oil Price Watch chairman Raul Concepcion said the power rate reduction would have significant effect on consumers but extended his appeal to the banks to consider lowering their rates, too.

The President said she is considering the establishment of a credit bureau because the micro-finance system requires no collateral and is becoming very attractive because of its lower interest rates.

She said that while her detractors continue to scrape the bottom of the barrel for old, worn out issues, her administration is concerned with the issue of a modern Philippines fighting for the people and lifting them from poverty.

"I call on all Filipinos to bury past complaints and join the bandwagon of the economy," she said. "This is our only time to break free from the drag of past complaints and move forward. Let us not waste time but use it to grab every opportunity to advance, prevail over our conflicts and doubts and win the future."

PGMA creates task force on climate change

Alarmed by the report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has issued Administrative Order 171 creating a Presidential Task Force on Climate Change (PTFCC) that seeks to address and mitigate the impact of climate change in the country.

The PTFCC will be composed of Environment Secretary Angelo Reyes as chair, with the secretaries of the Departments of Energy (DOE), Science and Technology, Agriculture and the Interior and Local Government, and two representatives from the private sector/civil society as members.

Foremost of the PTFCC functions is to conduct rapid assessment on the impact of climate change to the Philippine setting, especially on the most vulnerable sectors/areas like water, agriculture, coastal areas, as well as on the terrestrial and marine ecosystems.

It will also ensure strict compliance to air emission standards and act with urgency to combat deforestation and environmental degradation as well as apprehend violators.

The IPCC report on climate change prepared by 2,500 experts from 150 countries revealed that the global temperature will continue to rise towards 2100, and in the short term, will rise by about 1.4-5.8 degrees Centigrade, leading to an increase in the sea level from 18 to 59 centimeters by 2010.

It indicated that the rise in temperatures had been "very likely" with 90 percent caused by human activity and due to increase in the release in the atmosphere of greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, hydroflourocarbons, perflourocarbons and sulfur hexaflouride.

Being an archipelagic country located in the typhoon rings, the Philippines, according to the report, is highly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change. Truth of this are the recent high-intensity or three super typhoons that hit the country in 2006.

Signed by the President last Feb. 20, AO 171 will take effect 15 days after its publication in a national newspaper of general circulation.

The PTFCC’s other functions are to :

* Undertake/initiate strategic approaches and measures to prevent or reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the Philippines, including fuel efficiency, energy conservation, use of renewable energy, waste management, etc.

* Conduct a massive and comprehensive public information and awareness campaign nationwide to educate the public on the climate change situation and its adverse effects, and mobilize multisectoral actions on climate change.

* Design concrete risk reduction and mitigation measures and adaptation responses, especially to address short-term vulnerabilities, on sectors and areas where climate change will have the greatest impact.

* Collaborate with international partners at the bilateral, regional and multilateral levels to support global effort to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions and institute mitigating and adaptive measures, especially for developing countries; and

* Cause the integration and mainstreaming of climate risk management into the development policies, plans and programs of government.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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