, NOVEMBER 7, 2007 (STAR) President Arroyo renewed her call on the opposition yesterday to work with the administration in moving the nation forward for the public good.

Speaking at a reception for the Cities Alliance Public Policy Forum in Malacañang, Mrs. Arroyo said the people deserve peace, order and stability, particularly at this time when the economy is on the path to permanent growth.

“This meeting comes at a time when the nation is moving and the people are more concerned about taking advantage of our economic progress than the backsliding of political protest,” she said.

“People deserve peace, order and stability. We have been through many upheavals and the people deserve a stable government and economic progress.”

Mrs. Arroyo repeatedly asked her critics to put an end to political noise and destabilization, and appealed for unity and reconciliation.

“We like to think that even the opposition are committed to the public good and like us, that they want to find common ground to move the nation forward,” she said.

Mrs. Arroyo said the economy has enjoyed 27 quarters of growth: a surge in investments, six million new jobs, a strong peso and the best stock market in a generation.

“We are confident that politicians, especially the city officials here with us tonight, want to continue with the gains and not stop the progress,” she said.

Mrs. Arroyo said the economic reforms her administration has undertaken are the “frontline” in the campaign to reduce poverty.

“More jobs means less poverty,” she said.

“These reforms have also generated the additional revenues needed to invest in services that help poor people such as health insurance subsidies for indigent families and food for school programs.”

“The national agenda is focused on creating good paying jobs, stable prices and bringing the benefits of a strong economy to every single Filipino. It is a pro-poor, pro-growth, pro-modernization agenda.” – Marvin Sy

Palace steps up oil crisis measures By Paolo Romero Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The government is exerting all efforts to stave off the effects of the runaway prices of crude oil in the world market, President Arroyo assured yesterday.

Mrs. Arroyo made the assurance as she convened the National Competitiveness Council (NCC) and the Export Development Council (EDC) in an emergency meeting to map out additional strategies to address the effects of the surging oil prices on local industries and consumers.

As the price of crude oil approaches $100 to a barrel, Mrs. Arroyo called on all sectors to help in averting a possible crisis.

“The nation must move quickly, especially leaders of government and industries to lessen the blow of rising prices of diesel, gasoline and LPG (liquefied petroleum gas),” she said.

“The impact of rising prices is on those low-income earners, who cannot cope with rising prices of consumer goods,” she said.

Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes and Acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Augusto Santos in separate interviews said that without immediate government and public action, the country could face a crisis that includes runaway inflation, loss of competitiveness, productivity and jobs.

“We are not yet in crisis but we may get there unless we do something significant or effective and part of this is what we are doing in government,” Reyes said.

Santos, for his part, said the government is still assessing the possible impact of rising oil prices on growth targets.

He said that so far, the country is shielded from the effects of the rising oil prices by the strong peso.

Reyes added the government is lukewarm to reducing oil tariffs since it would translate to about P450 million in revenue losses to the government every month while resulting in only 23 centavos reduction in the price of fuel per liter.

Trade Secretary Peter Favila said the government response to the runaway oil prices will cover the transport, industrial, energy and power sectors as well as specific energy conservation and efficiency measures.

Sen. Francis Escudero urged Mrs. Arroyo to exercise her executive powers to lower the tariff rates on oil imports to alleviate the impact of rising fuel prices in the international market.

Escudero said he is in favor of allowing Mrs. Arroyo to exercise a special power to “soften the impact of rising fuel prices” on the domestic market.

Escudero also sought for the review of the finance department’s move to reject the proposals by some sectors to reduce tariff rates on oil imports.

Escudero noted the Department of Finance’s concern on the possible loss of revenue as an after-effect of oil increase in the world market.

Escudero, however, stressed the welfare of the people should prevail over lost revenues.

He added the government should try this solution to the rising fuel prices even on a short-term basis.

Escudero said the Senate will review renewed proposals to amend the ( Electric Power Industry Reform Act) EPIRA law.

He said five years since the implementation of EPIRA, the price of electricity shot up, contrary to what was early on promised to the public.

Escudero said he is in favor of reviewing the Oil Deregulation Law instead.

Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri, on the other hand, pushed anew for the need to prioritize the passage of the Renewable Energy Bill and a review of the Philippine Energy Plan to address the looming oil crisis.

“The latest round of oil price hikes carries wide-ranging effects on the economy and will incur greater damage on ordinary wage earners and small entrepreneurs more than on other sectors. It will affect those with lower incomes disparately,” Zubiri said.

Reyes and Favila, for their part, appealed on the public to do their share in energy conservation.

Reyes also cited the business sector can do its share by reducing the number of hours in outdoor advertising to conserve electricity.

To prevent jeepney fare hikes, Reyes said the government committed to run after mulcting policemen and traffic enforcers, “colorum” public utility vehicles and push for the single-ticketing system in Metro Manila.

He said transport groups had promised not to seek fare hikes if the government immediately acts on the issues.

Reyes said he would also meet with power producers and distributors to further find ways to reduce power rates.

Favila added the National Power Corp. and the Manila Electric Co. had promised to work on special rates on heavy power users in economic zones such as electronics manufacturers. -With Christina Mendez

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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