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Caritas Philippines attacks Duterte on energy

Church's social arm urges govt to crack down on coal-dependent firms and use of fossil fuels

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Caritas Philippines attacks Duterte on energy

Caritas Philippines chief Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo has called on President Rodrigo Duterte to come good on promises to move toward clean energy. (Photo supplied)

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Caritas Philippines, the Catholic Church’s social arm, has challenged President Rodrigo Duterte to be serious in his promises and “walk the talk” in banning coal-generated factories in the country.

The government must show sincerity in pushing for renewable resources of energy by revoking licenses of coal-dependent companies, Caritas chief Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo said on Sept. 30.

“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.

Duterte said in his State of the Nation Address on July 27 that 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.

International group Greenpeace, however, has expressed dismay after receiving reports that the government has continued giving out permits to coal-dependent corporations.

Bishop Bagaforo said that if the reports were true, they proved that the Philippine government was not serious in curbing the country’s carbon emissions.

“He [Duterte] continues to approve and support new coal-fired power plants by giving them permits to operate. The Philippines is still largely dependent on coal — the cheapest fuel option that also contributes most to greenhouse gas emissions,” he said.

In May, Filipino bishops and lay groups renounced the use of coal as a source of energy marking the fifth anniversary of the publication of Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’, an encyclical about taking care of the earth — the common home of mankind.

Clergymen and churchgoers released a joint statement calling coal the “dirtiest of all fossil fuels and the single biggest contributor to the climate emergency” that went against everything that the Catholic Church had taught about creation.

Bishop Bagaforo said three coal-powered plants in Quezon province, south of Manila, 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.

In August, Lucena Diocese in Quezon province issued a statement calling for the revocation of permits of two coal-powered corporations — SMC Global Power Holdings and Atimonan One Energy.

More than 100 clergymen signed the statement including Bishop Mel Rey Uy.

“We call upon these corporations and their power subsidiaries to listen to the cry of the earth and cancel their plans to set up this dirty, deadly and costly source of energy. We appeal to the local and national government and their respective agencies to listen to the cry of the people of Quezon and disallow these projects and any further coal plants in our beloved province,” the statement said.

According to Bishop Bagaforo, Caritas Philippines has listed 27 fully operational coal-fired powered plants in the Philippines.

“The number is still rising. That’s why we are urging the government to honor international agreements to foster greater care for our common home, especially in building clean energy pathways, and to declare a climate emergency,” he said.

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