A Roman Catholic bishop who has been at the forefront of the campaign to save the environment has reiterated his call for Philippine financial institutions to stop funding the expansion of coal operations in the country and to support the development of renewable energy instead.
Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of the Diocese of San Carlos in Negros Occidental, representing the Withdraw From Coal Campaign, yesterday said he issued his appeal during the 3rd Philippine Environment Summit at the Grand Caprice Convention Center in Cagayan de Oro, Friday.
Current initiatives contributing to the country’s social and economic development while conserving theenvironment were tackled at the summit, he said.
“As fulfillment of their moral obligation, Philippine banks must have concrete plans to phase out coalfinance in the time required by today’s climate crisis. They must have clear policies restricting theirexposure to coal, channeling the funds they divest from it into clean and affordable renewable energy for all Filipinos,” Alminaza said.
While praising the SONA 2019 directive of President Rodrigo Duterte to “fast-track” the development ofrenewable energy resources and reduce dependency on coal, the bishop pointed out that thecontinuing dominance of coal in the country's energy mix calls for even more ambitious ways forwardfrom different sectors, including the finance industry.
In fact, he said the Department of Energy has 29 approved coal plants in the pipeline, one of which is in San Carlos City, the seat of his diocese.
The bishop has been leading a campaign against the planned construction of the 300 megawatt coal plant by San Miguel Corp. Global Power Holdings Corp. in San Carlos City.
“Banks financing coal are not only funding the climate crisis, they are also enabling the continued suffering of coal-affected communities,” Alminaza stressed at the climate summit.
In addition to the 16 new coal-fired power plants added to the national fleet in the last decade, thePhilippines is still looking to add a total of 12,014 MW of new coal power, making it the ninth biggestcoal expansionist in the world as of 2019.
Thirteen local banks had been identified to have loaned or underwritten USD 6.303 billion to coal interestsfrom 2017 to the third quarter of 2019.
Two of these banks, Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) and Banco de Oro (BDO) account for nearly 55 percent of this finance, he said.
“The IPCC reported that the world has until 2030 to reduce coal use by 78 percent from 2010 levels to avoid even more disastrous climate impacts. As stewards of Creation, we must unite with our scientists onthis and seek to veer away from a fuel that causes the suffering of our people and destruction of our Common Home,” Alminaza said.
Alminaza stated that as the Philippines is one of the most vulnerable nations to climate change, it must lead in phasing out coal, and financial institutions must take their role in it seriously - similar to the commitment of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) and his own diocese todivesting its resources from dirty energy technologies.
A petition letter addressed to the Bank of the Philippine Islands, the bank with which many Churchorganizations have financial relations, was also circulated during the event and was signed byhundreds of participants, including Bishop Antonio Ledesma of Cagayan De Oro.
“Out money as depositors and shareholders are being used to fund coal-fired power plants that produce overpriced- electricity while polluting the air and ground, poisoning our people.Let us put a stop to this. The idea of divestment is not radical or impossible. Around the world, many banks and financial institutions have withdrawn funding for coal-fired power plants,” the appeal said.
The appeal strongly recommends that Church investments and deposits be utilized to promote renewable energy instead.
The appeal called on the bank not to put profit ahead of the common good. “Without the resources from your bank, funding for these destructive plants will be drastically reduced.With the prestige of BPI, other banks may be convinced to do the same", the appeal said.
“We appeal to all to join the calls as written in our letter as expression of our care for our commonhome and our future generations. For as one saying goes, ‘we do not inherit the Earth from ourancestors - we borrow it from our children.’ We must act swiftly for time is running out,” Alminaza said.
Launched in Manila in January and in the Visayas in February, "Withdraw from Coal" is a campaignspearheaded by the Church, civil society, and people’s organizations urging Philippine banks to divest from businesses involved in coal power generation and coal extraction.*
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