By Robin Gomes
A group of Philippine bishops and religious congregations have issued a declaration pledging to halt the use of church assets to finance fossil fuel industries, such as coal, that harm the environment.
Among those who signed the May 21 declaration are officials from the Archdiocese of Manila, the Diocese of San Carlos in the Visayas region, members of the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines and the Augustinian Missionaries.
In his May 24, 2015 encyclical, "Laudato Si', on Care for Our Common Home", Pope Francis wanted to stir inspiration and passion among religious and secular groups to care for the environment and to address current ecological crises.
The declaration says that “coal, the dirtiest of all fossil fuels and the single biggest contributor to the climate emergency, goes against everything that the Church stands for (…) especially the preservation of the life and dignity of the human person and the care for God’s creation”.
It also says that the Covid-19 pandemic and climate emergency are both calls to bring about a “better world.”
Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo, the Apostolic Administrator of Manila Archdiocese, who is a staunch advocate of the environment, has described the use of coal as “not cheap” as Filipinos pay dearly in other ways.
“Sadly, the well-being of the people is rarely considered in economies where the priority is economic growth. As long as business and government policies value profit over people, coal dependence will continue to prosper,” Bishop Pabillo wrote recently on social media.
Another signatory to the May 21 declaration is Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of San Carlo, an ardent advocate of clean and affordable renewable sources of energy.
On the homepage of his diocesan website he has a bold ‘no entry’ traffic sign with the words “No to Coal”.
Bishop Alminaza has been appealing to Philippine financial institutions to stop funding the expansion of coal operations in the country and instead support the development of renewable energy.
“As the fulfilment of their moral obligation, Philippine banks must have concrete plans to phase out coal finance in the time required by today’s climate crisis,” Bishop Alminaza said at the 3rd Philippine Environment Summit held in late February at Cagayan de Oro.
The banks, he said, must have clear policies restricting their exposure to coal, channelling the funds they divest from it into clean and affordable renewable energy for all Filipinos.
CBCP - ecological conversion
Last year, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) released a major pastoral letter on “climate emergency”, urging their communities to ecological conversion, to listen to the cry of the Earth and the poor and act together to mitigate the ill effects of climate change.
Entitled, “An urgent call for ecological conversion, hope in the face of climate emergency”, the July 16 pastoral letter by CBCP president, Archbishop Romulo Valles of Davao, offered a reflection on the state of the environment, followed by concrete ecological actions.
It was the 8th in a series of environment-related documents that the Philippine bishops have released over the past 3 decades, since the publication of the first one in 1988 entitled, “What is Happening to Our Beautiful Land?”