At least 32 Catholic bishops in the Philippines have signed a petition calling on financial institutions to put an end to the proliferation of coal operations in the country.
The church leaders called on Philippine banks to invest in “clean and renewable energy” instead of using depositors’ money in coal-fired power plants and other destructive industries.
Bishop Gerardo Alminaza noted that financial institutions “enable the continued proliferation” of coal and other fossil fuels that “burden the communities and destroy the environment.”
The bishop of San Carlos, who also sits as vice chairman of the social action arm of the bishops’ conference, said the church can play a role in putting pressure on banking institutions.
The church’s social action commission convened the largest anti-coal network in the country during an environmental meeting dubbed Eco-Convergence last week.
At least 90 representatives of 22 civil society and peoples’ organizations and nine dioceses across the Philippines gathered to advance the “withdraw from coal” campaign.
The divestment campaign is one of the major action points of the bishops’ pastoral statement on ecology and climate change that was released in July 2019.
At least 13 local banks, including the top ones, have lent or underwritten $6,303 million to coal interests from 2017 to 2019.
The Philippines ranks ninth among 60 countries that are still under coal expansion with 579 gigawatts of new coal plant capacity in the pipeline.
Father Edwin Gariguez, executive secretary of the church’s social action secretariat, said opposition to dirty energy in the country “has gained initial victories.”
In 2019, the Philippine Supreme Court denied 90 power supply agreements, many of which were coal projects, due to lack of competitive selection process.
“Now, we focus on encouraging major shareholders of local financial institutions to urge decision-making bodies of these banks to invest more in clean and renewable energy,” said the priest.
The Archdiocese of Manila ranks fifth among the top 100 shareholders of the Bank of Philippine Island, one of the largest financial institutions that have coal investments in the country.
Other top shareholders of the bank are Carmel of the Divine Infant Jesus of Prague, Inc., Archdiocese of Jaro, Mill Hill Missionaries, Corporacion de Padres Dominicos, and the Archdiocese of Zamboanga.
In a statement issued during the launching in January of the drive dubbed “Withdraw From Coal Campaign,” environmental groups noted that as the global response to the climate change strengthens with the expected rise of policies restricting coal’s playing field, “coal is on its way to become mere stranded assets and liabilities.”
“These banks, are only setting up trouble for themselves,” added the statement.