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June 13, 2008

President calls for unity to solve economic problems

Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo Thursday called for unity among Filipinos, saying it will help the Philippines hurdle the economic challenges caused by high prices of oil and food.

The rising costs of food and energy are a worldwide problem beyond the capacity of the government to address, said the President at celebrations marking the country's 110th Independence Day anniversary in Manila.

The Philippines had announced that its consumer prices in May grew 9.6 percent over the same period last year, hitting a new high since January 1999.

However, the government has measures to lessen the effects of these problems, she said.

"We're giving out fuel aid to those who need it the most. We're pushing for energy-saving measures and self-sufficiency in energy by way of natural gas, geothermal and solar and wind power," the President said.

Arroyo said the government is doing everything it can to weather the crisis.

"Even if we're not able to avoid these problems, the government is doing its duty of providing basic services to its people. The robust Philippine economy is also doing all it can to face the challenges brought by rising prices of food and oil in the world market," said the President.

While the poor bear the brunt of the effects of economic problems brought about by the increasing prices of oil and food worldwide, Arroyo assured the public that the government is doing everything it can to ensure a sufficient supply of food on the table for every Filipino.

The government is offering subsidized rice to the poor at 18.25pesos ($0.41) per kg, nearly half of the market price.

"We have adequate supply of rice today and we have a solid plan for self-sufficiency. This is important for our domestic and international audiences to appreciate," she said.

Earlier, the President announced that the archipelago will achieve self-sufficiency of rice in five years.

On the issue of high electricity rates, she said the government is also addressing this problem by seeking ways on how to lower power rates.

Among the programs the government has instituted are the lowering of the customs duty or tariff to zero and providing monetary assistance to the poor to help them pay for their electricity bill.

Despite the government's help, the people should still find a way of contributing something to ease the burden, she said.

The President called on Filipinos to emulate the country's national heroes who fought for freedom for the country.

"I'm appealing to you all for unity for the sake of our Mother Country, for the sake of the family and every individual, for the sake of the next generation of Filipinos," she added.

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