A Church leader has asked Philippine financial institutions to fulfill their moral obligations by stop funding coal projects and start supporting the development of renewable energy.
Speaking during the 3rd Philippine Environment Summit on Friday, Bishop Gerardo A. Alminaza of the Diocese of San Carlos, Negros Occidental, said banks must have concrete plans to phase out coal finance consistent with the need to address the climate crisis.
“They must have clear policies restricting their exposure to coal, channeling the funds they divest from it into clean and affordable renewable energy for all Filipinos,” Alminaza, who spoke representing the groups leading the “Withdraw From Coal” campaign.
The summit held on February 26 to 28 in Cagayan de Oro gathered more than 200 participants to tackle the country’s state of the environment and current initiatives contributing to the social and economic development while conserving the environment.
In his talk, Alminaza praised President Duterte’s 2019 State of the Nation Address (SONA) when he directed the Department of Energy (DOE) to fast track the development of renewable energy sources and reduce the country’s dependence on coal.
However, he pointed out that the continuing dominance of coal in the country’s energy mix calls for an even more ambitious ways forward from different sectors, including the finance industry.
He said 13 banks continue to fund coal-fired power plant projects, a reason “coal is expanding instead of shrinking despite the policy supposed promoting renewable energy having put in place.” Because of this, he said they become as liable as proponents of coal-fired power plants as they enable the continued suffering of affected communities.
“Banks financing coal are not only funding the climate crisis, they are also enabling the continued suffering of coal-affected communities,” he stressed.
According to Alminaza, 16 new coal-fired power plants added to the national fleet in the last decade. With this, the Philippines is still looking to add a total of 12,014 megawatts of new coal power, making it the ninth biggest coal expansionist in the world as of 2019.
The group had identified 13 local banks that have loaned or underwritten $6.303 billion to coal interests from 2017 to the third quarter of 2019. Two of these banks account for nearly 55 percent of this finance, the group’s statement said.
“The world has until 2030 to reduce coal use by 78 percent from 2010 levels to avoid even more disastrous climate impacts,” Alminaza said citing a report by the group Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. “As stewards of Creation, we must unite with our scientists on this and seek to veer away from a fuel that causes the suffering of our people and destruction of our Common Home.”
As the Philippines is one of the most vulnerable nations to climate change, he said it must hence take the lead in phasing out coal, and financial institutions must take their role in it seriously.
To demonstrate its commitment to promote a healthier environment, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) and the Diocese of San Carlos, he said, are divesting its resources from dirty energy technologies.
During the event, a petition letter addressed to the Bank of the Philippine Islands, the bank with which many Church organizations have financial relations, was circulated and signed by hundreds of participants, including Bishop Antonio Ledesma of Cagayan De Oro.
“We appeal to all to join the calls as written in our letter as expression of our care for our common home and our future generations,” Alminaza said. “For as one saying goes, ‘We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.’ We must act swiftly for time is running out.”
Jonathan L. Mayuga is a journalist for more than 15 years. He is a product of the University of the East – Manila. An awardee of the J. G. Burgos Biotech Journalism Awards, BrightLeaf Agricultural Journalism Awards, Binhi Agricultural Journalism Awards, and Sarihay Environmental Journalism Awards.