Palace to cut car fuel use

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — A MALACAÑANG task force is firming up an energy conservation program that would cut the country’s vehicle fuel bill by P140 billion a year.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said the planned measures include adopting a four-day work week and requiring motorists or car owners including those in government to cut fuel use by at least 1 liter per day.

These are among the recommendations the Presidential Task Force on Energy Contingency would recommend to President Arroyo, Ermita said.

After the Cabinet meeting Tuesday at San Fernando, La Union, Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes announced that the oil price situation has prompted President Arroyo to reactivate the task force.

Ermita said the Philippine National Oil Co. energy audit team proposed a mandatory cut in fuel use by motorists as a good way for the country to reduce oil consumption.

The PNOC noted that with 4.2 million gasoline-fed vehicles in the country, and at P52 per liter of gasoline, a program that would call for saving 1 liter of fuel a day would result in an estimated P78.8 billion a year in savings on gasoline consumption. And with 1.5 million vehicles in the country using diesel, now selling at P45 per liter, a similar 1 liter savings per day would result in an overall annual saving on fuel costs of P63.3 billion for the entire country.

The same measure would work to cut government’s fuel expenses, Ermita said. With 80,000 state-owned vehicles, the mandatory fuel cut would result in government savings of an estimated P1.44 billion a year.

According to Ermita, the government has already put in place its own energy conservation program.

“The IRR [implementing rules and regulations] of the Energy Management Program are: mandatory implementation of energy conservation program [for government agencies], designation of energy conservation officer, creation of energy audit team, and also provisions giving incentives for agencies that perform well based on the standards of the energy audit team,” he said.

But Ermita stressed that for fuel conservation programs to be effective, members of the Cabinet and other high government officials must set the example and refrain from using gas-guzzlers.

“Yes, the Cabinet should follow suit; they should set the example,” Ermita said.

In a lighter vein, Ermita said: “But if you see a Cabinet official riding in the LRT, you might think it’s overacting. It’s not unlikely, I think that you will see some of us riding in the LRT.”

Yet, Ermita said the exception would likely be the security escorts of President Arroyo.

“The President’s escorts are not so much [focused] on vehicle need but the need to provide appropriate security for the Chief Executive.”

The executive secretary also said that the Palace is supportive of proposals in Congress for a four-day work week in so far as it would likely result in a drop in the use of fuel.

Likewise, he noted that the Cabinet has discussed the allocation of P500 million for development of bio-fuel as substitute for gasoline and diesel, as well as the P2-billion proposed subsidy for public transport sector.

Ermita said the task force on energy contingency will draw up more plans to address the rising cost of oil.