Asean inks landmark energy pact
By Sonia K & Alex How in Cebu City

Asian and Pacific leaders yesterday signed an agreement Monday to help reduce their dependence on conventional sources of energy and promote the use of biofuels.

His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam attended the 2nd East Asia Summit (EAS) at the Cebu International Convention Centre, Cebu City, and signed the Cebu Declaration on East Asian Energy Security with other leaders from Asean, Australia, New Zealand, India, Japan, China and South Korea.

The agreement lists a set of goals for "reliable, adequate and affordable" energy supplies essential for sustaining economic growth and competitiveness.

During the first session of the Retreat, His Majesty shared with his EAS colleagues Brunei Darussalam's perspective on energy security. His Majesty felt the discussion on this matter was timely as it concerned all and would help in strengthening East Asia cooperation.

His Majesty was of the view that sustainable development of the participating countries of the EAS was also linked to addressing energy security in a holistic manner and that events over the past year had propelled energy security as an important part of the global agenda.

His Majesty also said that the environment merits closer attention by the leaders of EAS as events in recent years have shown how the environment could affect the people's livelihoods and have an impact on the global economy.

His Majesty said that although the issue of energy security was fundamentally economic in nature, nonetheless, it was complex and multi-dimensional. His Majesty added that there was no single approach as it involved other crucial aspects such as sustainable development and energy efficiency, environmental protection, development of alternative and renewable sources of energy.

His Majesty suggested that one way of addressing this was for leaders to inform their people and promote their understanding on the importance of the issue. As a start, His Majesty instructed ministers and officials to look into ways of promoting energy efficiency that has become an important component of energy security, and developing renewable sources of energy.

In this regard, His Majesty said that there was a lot to be learnt from each other especially in sharing ideas, possibly coordinating the policy responses and coming up with a comprehensive long-term strategy on energy security.

At the second session of the Retreat, His Majesty commented specifically on matters of economic development and ways and means of enhancing relationships among participating countries of the EAS.

The monarch believed economic and development matters were areas where the EAS should cooperate closely. This is because East Asia is one of the most dynamic regions and is preoccupied in sustaining economic progress.

In this regard, His Majesty suggested the EAS consider practical ways of achieving this and suggested that officials should also look into ways to deepen the economic relations among EAS nations.

On other areas of interest, His Majesty also encouraged the EAS to work closely in education to promote awareness and understanding of the different cultures and bring the people closer together.

Finally, His Majesty expressed hope that their discussions could produce two things: first, to enable the leaders of EAS to help shape and influence global views and policy responses on matters of mutual interest; and second, to deliver specific cooperative projects as and when necessary.

Later, His Majesty together with other leaders of EAS signed the Cebu Declaration on East Asian Energy Security. After the signing ceremony, His Majesty joined other leaders of EAS for a working lunch. Later in the afternoon, His Majesty left Cebu for Brunei Darussalam. Accompanying His Majesty was His Royal Highness Prince Mohamed Bolkiah, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Before departure, a doa selamat was read by YB Pehin Datu Seri Maharaja Dato Paduka Seri Setia Ustaz Haji Awang Abdul Aziz bin Juned, the State Mufti. Present at the Mactan Cebu International Airport to bid farewell to His Majesty was Ace Durano, Tourism Secretary; Gwendolyn Garcia, Governor of Cebu; and several senior officials of the Republic of the Philippines government.

Also present were Emaleen Abd Rahman Teo, Ambassador of Brunei Darussalam to the Philippines, and other officials of the Embassy of Brunei Darussalam in Manila. (16th January 2007)