Philippines eyes shift back to cheaper, dirtier fuel to tame inflation

Passengers ride in foot-powered trolleys along a railroad track in Manila, giving locals a cheap and non-pollutive alternative method of transport. (AFP / NOEL CELIS)
Updated 11 August 2018
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Philippines eyes shift back to cheaper, dirtier fuel to tame inflation

MANILA: The Philippines’ energy ministry has told oil companies to sell a cheaper but dirtier type of diesel oil to motorists to fight inflation, backing away from a two-year-old regulation that banned its use to improve air quality.
The energy department’s plan would need clearance from the environment department, which implemented Manila’s switch to cleaner Euro-IV compliant fuels from Euro-II in January 2016, a rule that covered both oil companies and car manufacturers. The department was evaluating the plan, an official said.
The Department of Energy late on Thursday directed that Euro-II compliant automotive diesel oil should be provided as a fuel option for transport and industrial retail customers “for the purpose of reducing the impact of rising petroleum prices in the world market.”
“We’re studying it right now, giving consideration to their plan to cushion inflation. We’re also looking at the implications for emissions,” Environment and Natural Resources Undersecretary Jonas Leones told Reuters on Friday.
Euro-IV fuels have sulfur content of 50 parts per million (ppm) versus 500 ppm for Euro-II fuels.
Petron Corp, the Philippines’ top refiner, was studying the impact of the energy department’s plan which it only received on Thursday night, a spokesman for the company said. Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corp, the local unit of Royal Dutch Shell PLC, was checking into the matter, a spokeswoman said.
Philippine annual inflation climbed to its highest in more than five years at 5.7 percent in July, prompting the central bank to raise interest rates for a third time this year on Thursday.
Along with the switch back to Euro II-fuels, Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi also ordered the government’s Philippine National Oil Company-Exploration Corp. to import “low-priced petroleum products, particularly diesel, to mitigate the impact of volatile oil prices.”


Japan drops ‘maximum pressure’ on North Korea from diplomatic book

Updated 23 April 2019
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Japan drops ‘maximum pressure’ on North Korea from diplomatic book

  • Language was dropped after consideration of latest developments surrounding North Korea
  • Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, seen as a foreign policy hawk, has also softened his rhetoric toward North Korea

TOKYO: Japan on Tuesday dropped the push to apply “maximum pressure” on North Korea from its official foreign policy, an apparent softening of Tokyo’s position as major powers engage with Pyongyang.
In last year’s “Diplomatic Bluebook,” published when tensions on the Korean peninsula were soaring, Japan said it was coordinating efforts with its allies to “maximize pressure on North Korea by all available means.”
But this language was dropped from this year’s edition, drawn up after diplomats had “taken comprehensively into account the latest developments surrounding North Korea,” according to chief government spokesman Yoshihide Suga.
“There have been major developments in the situation surrounding North Korea in light of events such as the US-North Korea summits in June last year and February,” Suga told reporters.
Abe, seen as a foreign policy hawk, has also softened his rhetoric toward North Korea, frequently offering to meet leader Kim Jong Un to negotiate the decades-old issue of Japanese civilians kidnapped by the North.
“Japan seeks to normalize its relations with North Korea by comprehensively resolving outstanding issues of concern such as the abductions, nuclear and missile issues as well as settling an unfortunate past,” Suga said.
Tokyo has been one of the most hawkish of the major powers on North Korea and has been on the receiving end of some of Pyongyang’s harshest rhetoric — as well as missiles launched over its territory.
Until late 2017, North Korea repeatedly tested missiles that flew toward or over Japan, sparking warnings blared out on loudspeakers and stoking calls for a tough stance against Pyongyang.
However, Japan now finds itself battling to keep itself relevant in the fast-moving North Korea issue as Kim expands his diplomatic circle.
Kim is now preparing for talks with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, after multiple meetings with US President Donald Trump, Chinese President Xi Jinping and South Korean leader Moon Jae-in.
Abe will soon meet Trump at the White House where the issue of North Korea is bound to be on the table.