August 22, 2005 
(STAR) The Presidential Security Group (PSG) is studying ways to cut the number of vehicles in President Arroyo’s official motorcade to save on fuel amid skyrocketing oil prices, officials said yesterday.

Her convoy now numbers up to 10 vehicles, including motorcycle riders who clear traffic from her path and an ambulance for emergencies.

Mrs. Arroyo herself reiterated the order for the PSG to find ways to save energy as part of a national campaign to cut down on the consumption of imported oil.

"I even asked my own security (group), how do we reduce our gas-guzzling convoy?" she said.

"They said I do need two heavy-duty, bullet-proof cars," but the rest of her convoy could switch to cheaper, diesel-fueled vehicles, the President said.

PSG head Brig. Gen. Delfin Bangit said they would switch to diesel fuel and study which vehicles they could do without.

The President said she has tasked Energy Secretary Raphael Lotilla to assist her in following through on the strict implementation of various administrative orders (AOs) related to wasteful use of resources, including fuel and electricity, by government offices and agencies.

Among the "concrete manifestations" contained in the AOs, she said, is a reduction in the size of the government vehicle fleet. She said long government convoys were an eyesore to the public, and also called for a clampdown on those using sirens and blinker-equipped security devices on the road.

The Arroyo government has been pushing energy-saving measures to cope with higher oil prices, including rationing of fuel for government vehicles and an order for all government offices to reduce their energy bills by 10 percent.

The President summoned her Cabinet and heads of other government agencies and government-owned and -controlled corporations to attend the Energy Conservation Command Conference yesterday at Malacañang where she personally ordered stricter energy conservation. Also present was Vice President Noli de Castro.

During the conference, Lotilla presented in detail energy efficiency and conservation measures that government agencies, including state colleges and universities, should undertake to help cushion the effects of the debilitating oil crisis hitting the country.

"We expect strict compliance, that’s why you are all here," Mrs. Arroyo said. "We must set the example and take the lead. The government, being the biggest entity in our country, the biggest employer with two million employees, can certainly take the lead."

The President said she would conduct spot checks on various government offices to make sure that fuel rationing, which she earlier ordered, was being observed.

Lotilla said various government and private agencies could provide energy audit services for public and private offices to help them assess and monitor their power and fuel consumption.

Last year, the President issued AO Nos. 103 and 110 requiring all government agencies and corporations to adopt austerity measures, as well as directing the institutionalization of a Government Energy Management Program. She has also prohibited state offices and firms from purchasing luxury vehicles and ordered that any expensive motor vehicles be auctioned off.

Last week, the President signed AO No. 126 to strengthen measures to address the extraordinary increase in world oil prices to include the 10-percent reduction of fuel consumption of government agencies and offices.

Mostly Diesel-Powered

Bangit said the presidential convoy is composed of mostly diesel-powered vehicles, which provide better gas mileage than unleaded fuel. Only the President’s bullet-proof Mercedes Benz and her back-up vehicle are gasoline-powered.

He said he is studying the possibility of reducing the number of vehicles in the presidential motorcade by, for instance, removing the ambulance and assigning the doctor to ride in one of the other vehicles to reduce fuel consumption.

"But that would depend on the security situation. We will never compromise the security of the President," Bangit said.

He said his unit has already undertaken modest energy and fuel conservation measures, including the early closure of the PSG gym and the reduction of the use of staff cars by officials.

The Land Transportation Office (LTO) and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) are also set to implement energy-saving measures as part of the government’s energy conservation due to price hikes on petroleum products.

LTO chief Assistant Secretary Anneli Lontoc said in a text message that the LTO will follow the AO issued by Mrs. Arroyo.

"In addition, we’ll be disseminating information regarding fuel economy tips to our vehicle owners, as our contribution to the measures," Lontoc said.

LTFRB Chairwoman Elena Bautista, for her part, said among the energy-saving measures of the LTFRB is to restrict the use of air-conditioning units from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.

Lontoc added the LTO would enhance its campaign against the unauthorized use of government vehicles.

"We’ll still continue to report sighted red plates in areas such as malls where they’re not supposed to be, especially during weekends," Lontoc said.

Meanwhile, the Department of Education (DepEd) is likewise implementing energy-saving measures.

In a recent interview with The STAR, Education Undersecretary for Finance and Administration Juan Miguel Luz said they have been turning off unnecessary electrical devices especially after office hours and during lunch breaks. As if to demonstrate, he had the air-conditioning turned off during the interview.

Memorandum Of Agreement

The Department of Energy (DoE) and oil industry players agreed yesterday to cooperate and work closely together to ensure a continuous and adequate supply of petroleum products, and to prevent unscrupulous parties from taking advantage of the unabated oil price increases.

In a memorandum of agreement (MOA) signed after the energy conference at the Palace, the oil industry players agreed to operate their gasoline stations for a maximum of 20 hours a day and set consecutive hours as "non-operation" hours starting Aug. 29.

"The parties shall cooperate and work closely towards ensuring the continuous and adequate supply of petroleum products in the Philippines amidst the continuous increase of the prices of petroleum products in the world market," the MOA, which will be enforced for six months, said.

"To this end, the parties shall work together to maintain a competitive environment in the industry and prevent any unscrupulous parties from taking undue advantage of the increasing world oil prices to the detriment of consumers/end-users and the public interest," it said.

The DoE and the oil companies also agreed to implement the government’s energy efficiency and conservation program in their respective offices, gasoline stations, refineries and other areas of operations under the control of the various oil firms.

They will also explore, initiate and/or pursue other measures of energy efficiency and conservation to reduce dependence on imported petroleum products.

Among the signatories of the MOA were top officials of Caltex (Philippines) Inc., Eastern Petroleum Corporation, Flying V, Jetti Supply Distribution Inc., Liqui Phils. Corporation, Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corporation, Seaoil Philippines Inc., Subic Bay Distribution Inc., Total (Phils.) Corporation, Unioil Petroleum Philippines Inc.;

USA 88/Filpride, Independent Philippine Petroleum Companies Association, Philippine Institute of Petroleum, Association of Pilipinas Shell Dealers Inc., Association of Caltex Dealers of the Philippines, Petron Dealers Association, LPG Industry Association of the Philippines, LPG Refillers Association of the Phils. Inc., and LPG Marketer’s Association. — AFP, Paolo Romero, Sandy Araneta

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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