16 East Asian Leaders OK Energy Pact; GMA Praises Officials, Partners as ASEAN Summit Ends Conservation, Renewable Energy Sources Pushed

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CEBU -- Sixteen East Asian governments yesterday endorsed a plan moving toward nuclear and other alternative energy sources to reduce the region's dependence on costly fossil fuels and help stave off climate change.

The plan -- the Cebu Declaration on East Asian Energy Security -- was adopted by the leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and their dialogue partners Japan, China, South Korea, India, Australia, and New Zealand at the end of the 2nd East Asia Summit (EAS) here at the Cebu International Convention Center (CICC).

ASEAN groups Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Under the agreement, the regional bloc agreed to conserve energy, find alternative renewable energies, and promote open trade and cooperation in the sector in a bid to offset the adverse impact of soaring oil prices on their economies and peoples.

No concrete targets were set by the leaders who represent half the world's population and a fifth of global trade.

The energy-hungry regional bloc acknowledged that "fossil fuels still underpin our economies and will be an enduring reality for our lifetimes."

The group, however, highlighted the limited global reserves, unstable world oil prices, worsening environmental problems, and an urgent need to counter global warming and climate change.

The agreement, led by the Philippines, calls on East Asian member-countries to reduce dependence on conventional fuels "through intensified energy efficiency, and conservation programs, hydropower, expansion of renewable energy systems and biofuel production/utilization, and for interested parties, civilian nuclear power."

The agreement also called for an open and competitive market both regional and international markets to provide affordable energy for all.

To mitigate the effects of greenhouse gas emission, the leaders stressed the need for effective policies and measures to check global climate change.

They urged private sector participation to invest in energy and infrastructure development.

The group reaffirmed its commitment to ensuring energy security, saying "reliable, adequate, and affordable energy supplies" are vital for "strong and sustainable economic growth and competitiveness."

They also committed to minimize "greenhouse gas emissions" and invest in infrastructure such as the ASEAN Power Grid and the Trans-ASEAN Gas Pipeline to ensure stable energy supplies.

The document also called on East Asian member-states to promote the use of biofuels and work towards freer trade on biofuels and standards on biofuels used in engines and motor vehicles.

They endorsed moves to explore possible modes of fuel stockpiling through regional arrangements and channel oil profits for equity investments and affordable loans for other developing countries.

It also encouraged the East Asian bloc to promote cleaner and lower emission technologies to allow economic use of fossil fuels and address air pollution.

The Philippines has initiated the energy security cooperation pact in an effort to reduce dependence on oil imports from the volatile Middle East, whose prices have surged to historic peaks last year.

The leaders of the 16 countries present in the EAS represent more than half of the world population.

China and India alone have a combined population of almost three billion, while ASEAN has 467 million as of 2005.

The seven-page document was signed by Brunei Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah, Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen, Laos Prime Minister Bouasone Bouphavanh, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Malaysian Prime Minister Dato' Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Myanmar Prime Minister General Soe Win;Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Thai Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, Australian Prime Minister John Howard, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun, and New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark. …