East Asia to Cut Fuel Dependence

MANILA ~ Southeast Asian nations are to reduce their dependence on conventional fuels and explore stockpiling oil as part of a sweeping energy program, according to a draft pact.

The draft is to be signed by the 10 leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) when they meet with their counterparts from Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand in the second East Asian summit next month in the central Philippine province of Cebu.

The leaders will pledge to work closely to limit dependence on “conventional fuels through intensified energy-efficiency programs, expansion of renewable energy systems and biofuel production and utilization.”

Earlier this year, ASEAN energy ministers called for greater cooperation to boost renewable energy in order to minimize the impact of soaring oil prices that cast a shadow over one of the world’s most dynamic regions.

The pact will also call for a greater effort to minimize greenhouse gas emissions and to “harmonize standards for biofuels,” the draft said.

The summit will also call on oil-rich countries to use the dollars they earn from rising world oil prices for “equity investment and long-term, low-interest loan facilities” for developing countries that import energy.

The inaugural East Asian summit held in Kuala Lumpur last year expressed “grave concern” over the negative impact of a prolonged increase in oil prices on the region’s growth prospects.

This could be addressed, the countries said, through promoting energy efficiency and developing alternative fuel sources.

The agreement in Cebu is seen as a significant step towards enhancing “international cooperation” to reduce energy consumption, the draft said.

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

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