The social action arm of the Philippine Catholic bishops' conference is doubling efforts to promote the use of renewable energy to light up poor communities around the country. Caritas Philippines
has partnered with a local solar power system provider to accelerate the country's transition to renewable energy and to facilitate the "eradication of energy poverty." Out of the country's 85 dioceses, 43 are already in the process of installing and fully employing solar panel systems as alternative sources of power. "We are set to bring this renewable power system to far-flung and off-grid communities," said Jing Rey Henderson, communications officer of Caritas Philippines. Henderson said they are coordinating with local power distributors in the provinces to help facilitate the storage of generated solar power and its distribution to communities. On July 31, Caritas Philippines inaugurated three pilot project sites in Sorsogon Diocese's cathedral, home for the clergy and minor seminary. "This is a clear message to everyone that the church is serious in its energy campaign amid the failings of the government to implement the renewal energy law," said Bishop Arturo Bastes of Sorsogon
. Archbishop Rolando Tria Tirona, national director of Caritas Philippines, said the inauguration of the pilot sites is a "historic event" and the country's "concrete response" to Pope Francis' call to care for our common home. In March, the Philippine bishops entered a partnership with WeGen Distributed Energy Philippines
to install solar power services, with no cash-out requirements, on churches, religious facilities, schools and off-grid communities. Chris Cantal, the company's associate business development manager, said the company saw the partnership as "an opportunity to help the church realize the message of Laudato si
'." "As Catholics, we are called to act on the how we could assist Filipinos to minimize dependence on dirty energy," said Cantal. Philippine Catholic Church leaders have been vocal in their opposition to "dirty energy sources" that they said only benefit big corporations and businesses. Father Edwin Gariguez, head of Caritas Philippines, said the church always considers coal as energy source to be "dirty and destructive." There are 28 existing coal-fired power plants in the country. Despite strong opposition from environmental groups, the power plants continue to operate. Early this year, the Energy and Natural Resource Market Reports said that coal's share is at 32 percent of the country's total energy consumption.
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Father Gariguez said that with the church's renewable energy project "we have a better alternative, which in a way balances power." "From private energy providers monopolizing trade and supply, we now let communities claim their prophetic power to light up their houses from a common source that is renewable and clean," said the priest. In 2008, the Philippines passed the Renewable Energy Act, which affirmed the government's commitment to accelerate the exploration and development of renewable energy resources.