HomeCommentaryContradictions in Philippine fossil gas production for Japan

Contradictions in Philippine fossil gas production for Japan

When you see the new skyways, highways, and other expanding infrastructure in the Philippines, look to Japan as the source of many loans that helped build them. The Philippines’ foreign debt is at a record $125.4 billion as of last December.

There is interest to be paid on that, and most of the loans came from Japan, the world’s third-biggest economy, and the Asian Development Bank. The money is paid to Philippine corporations to build airports, bridges, roads, and other infrastructure.

The Philippines is one of the poorest countries in the world today. It is ranked 72nd on Global Finance’s poverty index, with 20 million Filipinos in dire poverty.

The root causes of this poverty are well-documented. It starts with a corrupt political system where powerful political dynasties (with some exceptions) control an incompetent and somewhat immoral government with politicians who circumvent the rule of law for their gain. Money to lift the poor out of poverty, for example, is instead spent to buy votes and keep these politicians in power.

Then there’s the massive inequality in wealth distribution. A tiny percentage of the country’s 115.6-million population owns 46 percent of the national wealth. Read the research of Andrew J. Masigan. There are 17 known Filipino billionaires and 19,000 millionaires in 2021. The latter figure is expected to increase to about 33,000 by 2026.

The superrich could have a change of heart and mind and be of great benefit to the Filipino poor if they share their wealth and have development programs implemented to provide well-paid jobs to the estimated 1.6 million unemployed adults and directly benefit the impoverished, abused, exploited and hungry 20 million Filipino women and children.

The superrich would do well to follow the example of Zacchaeus, the corrupt tax collector who, after meeting Jesus, repented and had a change of mind and heart. He vowed to give half of his wealth to the poor and pay back those he cheated four times as much (Luke 19:1-10). That might be too much for rich Filipinos, but they must share as Zacchaeus did.

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The Philippines is rich in natural resources. In contrast, Japan has almost none, so their loans are loaded with self-interest. Japan provides 80 percent of all low-cost loans to the Philippines. Since the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant disaster struck in March 2011, that nation’s power supply has been greatly impacted. In response, Japan turned to its other power source: gas. The country is the world’s biggest importer of liquefied natural gas (LNG). Relying on this energy source now makes Japan far from being carbon-neutral.

Consuming LNG is deadly and causes global warming. It must be replaced with renewable sources of energy instead of expanding its use to produce electricity. In fact, Japan is looking to the Philippines to fulfill its need for gas, of which our country has huge and undeveloped resources.

Japan’s economic envoy to the Philippines tasked with securing these resources is Tadashi Maeda, chairman of the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC), owned by the Japanese government. He has met with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in Malacañang. It was announced that Maeda already had meetings with Aboitiz Group Chief Executive Officer Sabin Aboitiz, San Miguel Corp. President Ramon Ang, and Metro Pacific Investments Corp. Chairman Manuel Pangilinan.

These Philippine billionaires and their companies are already committed to tapping renewable energy (RE) for the Philippines, phasing out fossil fuels to save the Earth, and meeting the Philippines’ commitments to the 2015 Paris Agreement and COP23.

To enter into deals to develop gas fields anywhere in the region as a member of the Japanese development plan, called the Asia Zero Emission Community (AZEC), would be a betrayal and reversal of the Philippines’ progress. This plan to drill for fossil fuels and export them to Japan puts President Marcos and the giant corporations involved into a bind. Their credibility and trustworthiness would be at stake.

They need to cooperate with Japan, rely on low-cost loans, get huge business contacts in the Philippines and Japan, and be faithful to their announced policies and commitments to phase out fossil fuel production and use and not to support its expansion.

The sweetener to get the President’s approval and cooperation is the audacious and disgusting promise by an unnamed Indonesian tycoon bearing promises of gifts of low-cost housing and a billion-peso hospital to help the President with his social development projects, a Malacañang spokesman said.

The Earth has broken all records for global warming this year. Environmentalists are very angry with this proposed deal to drill for fossil fuels. Already, environmental disasters are upon us because of the nonstop burning of fossil fuel, coal, gas, and oil for a hundred years.

The poor suffer the most. The planet has never been hotter in recorded history than it is today. Last year was the hottest on record, and 2024 is expected to worsen. The likes of Maeda put their national interest first, and global warming is not their real concern.

They are getting the Philippines to be part of AZEC. Rather than working for zero emissions, burning more gas is adding to the emissions. So, AZEC is promoting a big scam. The bigger the scam, the more will believe it. The most vocal critic of this is Gerry Arances, executive director of the Center for Energy, Ecology and Development. He has denounced the Japanese plan to exploit the Philippines’ gas resources for export to Japan. He said, “AZEC has been repeatedly denounced as a ploy to promote detrimental energy in developing countries in Asia, particularly with fossil gas and unproven fossil friendly technologies.”

The efforts of Maeda to get major Philippine corporations to work with them in AZEC are detrimental to the goal of stopping burning fossil gas and reducing emissions. The opposite is absolutely necessary to save the planet and the poor from environmental disasters.

The RE projects of the abovementioned corporations are laudable, but backing fossil fuel development at the same time would make them look like idiots on the world stage and seriously damage their reputation if they go along with the AZEC plan. They can just be polite and friendly to Japan and say yes and do nothing.

Irish Father Shay Cullen, SSC, established the Preda Foundation in Olongapo City in 1974 to promote human rights and the rights of children, especially victims of sex abuse. The views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial stance of LiCAS.news.

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