By Robin Gomes
The government must show sincerity in pushing for renewable resources of energy by revoking licenses of coal-dependent companies, said Bishop Jose Collin Bagaforo of Kidapawan, the National Director of Caritas Philippines.
“President Duterte must walk the talk when he said to the Filipino people that the country should reduce its dependence on non-environmentally friendly energy,” he said in a statement on 30 September.
In his State of the Nation Address on July 27, Duterte said he would call on government agencies to fast-track the development of renewable energy to reduce the Philippines’ dependence on “dirty, deadly and costly” sources such as coal.
However, the international group Greenpeace claims there have been reports of the government issuing licences to coal-dependent corporations. Bishop Bagaforo said that if the reports were true, they proved that the Philippine government was not serious about curbing the country’s carbon emissions.
Coal – dirtiest fossil fuel
The Caritas chief noted that the Philippines is still largely dependent on coal, the cheapest fuel option, which also contributes most to greenhouse gas emissions.
In May, while marking the fifth anniversary of the publication of Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato sí: On caring for our “common home” - the earth - Filipino bishops and lay groups renounced the use of coal as a source of energy.
They released a joint statement calling coal the “dirtiest of all fossil fuels and the single biggest contributor to the climate emergency,” which went against everything that the Catholic Church teaches about creation.
Bishop Bagaforo said three coal-powered plants in Quezon province operated by SMC Global Power Holdings and Atimonan One Energy have continued to degrade the environment and pose health risks to the public. “We already opposed the opening of new coal plants but still they were allowed to operate despite Duterte’s promises,” he said.
Disinvest from fossil fuel
Earlier, on 28 September, at least 69 out of the 83 dioceses of the Philippines issued an appeal to the public “to engage with financial institutions” to invest in clean and renewable energy portfolios, Licas News reported.
At least 15 Philippine banks were found to have diverted at least $12.63 billion to coal projects and developers from 2009 to 2019. These investments have enabled the development of at least 8.12 gigawatts of coal power in the country.
The Philippines has 27 existing coal-fired power plants and 29 proposed new coal projects in the pipeline.
Noting that coal is the nation’s “unfortunate contribution to the non-stop destruction” of the natural and rich ecosystems, the dioceses urged the public to convince their banks “to take effect the divestment process” and invest in “clean energy” projects.
Care for our common home
Last year, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines CBCP) issued a pastoral letter titled “An Urgent Call for Ecological Conversion, Hope in the Face of Climate Emergency” instructing dioceses to make caring for the environment “a special concern.”
“Care for Our Common Home,” the bishops said, is not only a Christian duty and responsibility but a “moral imperative.” Among the 13 concrete actions adopted by the Philippine bishops is the advancement of the coal divestment campaign of the Catholic Church.
Caritas Philippines has also called upon all private energy players, especially those in the fossil fuel industry, to start the transition to clean energy solutions.
The initiative of the Philippine Church comes as Christians worldwide near the end of this year’s Season of Creation, an annual celebration of prayer and action to protect God’s creation, our common home. Begun on 1 September with the World Day of Prayer for Creation, the Season of Creation will conclude on October 4, the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of ecology.