Byline: GENALYN D. KABILING
Even as they welcomed the decision of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to boost its oil production, energy ministers from Southeast Asia yesterday agreed to look in their own backyard for alternative sources of oil to lessen reliance on costly imported crude.
The agreement was reached during a luncheon hosted by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for the visiting energy ministers of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and the trade ministers of China, Japan, and Korea in Malacanang.
We would continue to have our dialogue with our producers from outside the region but in general we decided that we need to integrate more closely with each other by tapping our very own resources whether it be oil, natural gas, coal as well as renewable energy, Energy Secretary Vicente Perez said in a press briefing.
The visiting officials are in Manila for the 22nd ASEAN Ministers on Energy Meeting (AMEM) and the first meeting of the AMEM +3 that includes the trade ministers of China, Japan, and Korea.
Perez was the chairman of the 22nd AMEM. He was addressing energy senior officials from 20 countries attending the event in Makati.
Perez said the President cited the ASEAN +3 meeting in Manila as most timely considering that the price of oil has been volatile and energy security is a paramount concern to sustain the economic growth in the region.
He said the energy ministers also agreed to review and update the ASEAN Petroleum Supply agreement signed in 1986 to be more responsive to the oil needs of the members.
He said the agreement stipulates that an ASEAN member, if in distress, could rely on its neighboring countries for oil supply.
Perez said the President led a lively discussion with ASEAN energy ministers on the diversification of oil
resources as well as the use of alternative fuel such as compressed natural gas for public transport and
forms of bio-diesel to reduce the regions dependence on imported petroleum whose supply and price have been
controlled by OPEC.
He said the President suggested the use of coconut oil for biodiesel, which is a first for the Philippines,
to the visiting ASEAN energy ministers. In most countries, biodiesel is a mixture of diesel fuel and ester derived either from corn, soya, rapeseed or palm.
According to Perez, the ASEAN members are starting to buy oil from fellow Asian countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, and Russia.
The ASEAN energy ministers are also hammering out plans for a regional gas network to increase energy security for the region, he said.
Indonesia, with Asias biggest proven gas reserves of natural gas, has proposed a pipeline running from East Kalimantan to Sabah in Malaysia and then to the Philippines. It would join a network of other proposed pipelines to link supply and demand centers in the ASEAN.
Perez, meanwhile, welcomed as a positive sign the decision of OPEC to increase their oil production from 23.5 million barrels to 25 million barrels to keep the prices of oil stable.
Were very glad that OPEC in the last extraordinary meeting that they had listened to the call of consuming countries, he said.
The security of energy supplies has become a priority for Asia as strong economic growth increases the regions reliance on imported crude, most noticeably from the oil-rich but volatile Middle East.
The ASEAN group has been lobbying before OPEC to increase production of oil and lower the prices for its member-nations.
On the domestic front, Perez expressed hope that local oil companies would continue to offer and if possible expand outlets offering discounted diesel products to the public transport sector.
He admitted though the government cannot force the private-owned oil companies to continue with the practice since this is a free market. …