MANILA, June 3, 2008 (STAR) By Paolo Romero - President Arroyo issued last night a memorandum order to all government agencies and offices as well as local government units (LGUs) and government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs) to conserve energy and subsequent savings derived from this effort be used for subsidies of employees.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita told reporters what he called the “freshest order from the President” in dealing with the looming energy crisis during a break in the first meeting of the Presidential Task Force on Energy Contingency in Malacañang last night.

Ermita chairs the newly formed task force.

She said “all departments, agencies and GOCCs shall adopt electricity and fuel saving measures as soon as possible.”

“To encourage officials and employees to conserve electricity and fuel, all savings on these items in their maintenance, operating, and overhead expenses can be used as additional rice and transportation subsidy to their employees,” Mrs. Arroyo said in her memo.

She enjoined LGUs to do the same.

The President tasked the chairman of the Philippine National Oil Co. — Development and Management Corp. and the Department of Budget and Management to jointly monitor the program and report to her every quarter.

Mrs. Arroyo is scheduled to launch today at the Palace the P2-billion electricity subsidy for poor households dubbed the “Katas ng VAT, Pantawid Kuryente.”

Social Welfare Secretary Esperanza Cabral also announced the P2-billion electricity subsidy, which entails direct cash assistance, has been expanded nationwide and not only the franchise area of the Manila Electric Co. in Metro Manila.

Cabral said each poor family would be given P500 each “to aid them in the electricity expenses they are incurring because of the increases in electricity bills.”

However, she said the subsidy will be granted only once.

She said for Meralco franchise areas in Metro Manila and Regions 3 and 4A, the conduit of the subsidy would be the Land Bank of the Philippines.

For rural areas, the conduit would be the electric cooperatives.

She said there would be no need to screen the beneficiaries since they are already identified by their respective utilities as availing of the “lifeline rates” already set before.

Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Chairman Romulo Neri said the government has also allocated P1 billion from the value-added tax proceeds for scholarships in state universities and colleges (SUCs) and private schools.

Some P500 million would be for scholarships and the rest would be used for student loans.

Mrs. Arroyo would be launching the program on Thursday at the Eulogio Amang Rodriguez Institute of Science and Technology.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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