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[BEIJING] Sixteen Asian and Pacific countries have signed an agreement to boost energy efficiency and reduce dependence on fossil fuels.

The Cebu Declaration on East Asian Energy Security was signed by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and its six regional partners, including China and India, at a summit in Cebu, the Philippines, on Monday (15 January).

The declaration is meant to demonstrate their determination to curb greenhouse gas emissions and boost energy safety and efficiency in the Asia-Pacific region.

The agreement lists a series of goals to provide reliable, adequate and affordable energy supplies to the region, calling for further investment in renewable energy and "civilian nuclear power", as well as a common standard for the use of biofuels in engines and motor vehicles.

The signatories appealed for joint investment and efforts to guarantee stable energy supplies through investments in regional infrastructure, such as a power grid and gas pipeline to serve all Southeast Asian nations.

A BBC report speculated that the agreement may be an attempt to lessen the signatory countries' dependence on oil from the Middle East.

News reports quoted the Philippine foreign secretary, Alberto Romulo, as saying the declaration was needed to meet the region's expected economic expansion.

According to Zhou Dadi, of China's Energy Research Institute, the declaration, "paves the way for specific talks and practices involving energy supply and technology cooperation between countries around the Asian-Pacific region."

Niu Li, of the State Information Centre in Beijing expected bilateral talks as the next stage in negotiations, to "put the intention of the agreement into reality".

ASEAN consists of the Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Its six dialogue partners — Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea — are among the world's major energy consumers.