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Philippines pushes to cut oil consumption

MANILA — Reeling from record oil prices, the Philippines yesterday launched a countrywide campaign to limit energy consumption that includes halting government car purchases and switching off air conditioning for an hour in government offices.

The campaign calls on the public to leave cars at home one day each week and to share rides with relatives and friends. The campaign would save $ 784million a year, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said.

“Our energy efficiency and conservation program would result in about 12 percent reduction in our oil importation,” Arroyo said in a statement. “To our environment, it would mean cleaner air.”

All state agencies in the country, which imports nearly all of its crude oil, will be asked to cut fuel and electricity consumption by 10 percent by switching off some lights during lunch breaks.

Air conditioning in government offices will be turned off at 4 p.m., an hour before they usually close, Energy Secretary Vincent Perez told a news conference.

“At the moment, they (savings measures) are all voluntary. We have not yet crossed the line on mandatory” measures, Perez said, adding: “We will never consider gas rationing.”

“We believe (high) oil prices are here to stay for quite sometime,” he said.

“Thailand has already launched a campaign earlier this week and we are following suit.”

Asian oil importing nations are starting to look for ways to cut back on their energy consumption after US crude prices neared $ 50a barrel. Thailand on Tuesday said it would urge hypermarkets to shorten their opening times by more than 30 hours a week.

Arroyo said the ban on the purchase of new government vehicles was meant to show “leadership by example”.

“Increased purchases of vehicles only mean increased usage of fuel,” she said.

The president also ordered “severe penalties” for the use of government vehicles for unofficial trips.

Perez said government offices spent 2 billion pesos ($35. 7million) each year for electricity and another 2 billion pesos for vehicle fuel.

Perez said he would switch to a Japanese-built hybrid sedan to go to work to set the example, and the government would study ways to promote hybrids including lower import tariffs.

Shopping malls and movie houses would also be asked to shorten their business hours.

The Philippines imported 91.471 million barrels of crude oil last year and 37.04 million of oil products.

The country’s largest suppliers of crude oil are Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Iran.

Editorial Notes: Original title: Philippines Plans to Cut Oil Consumption" -LJ

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