'Dirty energy' stance of Filipino bishops generates praise

Green group hopes move by Catholic prelates to halt investment in fossil fuels will spur worldwide campaign
'Dirty energy' stance of Filipino bishops generates praise

Philippine Catholic bishops attend their biannual plenary assembly in Manila on July 8 where they discussed proposals to divest from 'dirty energy' sources. (Photo by Roy Lagarde) 

An environmental think-tank in Manila has welcomed a decision by Catholic bishops in the Philippines to halt investing in "dirty energy" sources such as coal.

They made the decision during their biannual plenary assembly in Manila last week.

The non-government Center for Energy, Ecology and Development (CEED) said the move is a great help to the cause of defending the environment.

Gerry Arances, CEED executive director, said their "moral leadership lends great weight to our cause for a coal-free Philippines."

"No amount of short-term profit justifies the long-term compromise of the health of our people and the Earth’s climate," he added.

Arances said he hopes decision will be the beginning of a trend "where all investors reject coal and other fossil fuels and choose the Earth over their pockets."

He said the Philippines is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change, yet it is also one of the few countries where investment in coal continues to rise.

According to government data, coal made the highest contribution to the power generation mix of the country at 44.5 percent in 2015.

In 2015, the cement industry used 15.2 percent of the country’s coal supply, while 5 percent went to other industries.

A Greenpeace report in 2016 revealed that there were an estimated 2,410 premature deaths in the Philippines each year due to cardiovascular and respiratory diseases from coal-related pollution.

Father Edwin Gariguez, head of Caritas Philippines, described the bishops' decision as a "milestone for the Church’s ecology advocacy."

He said the withdrawal of investment is part of a 10-point plan of Caritas Philippines' Laudato si' campaign that the bishops adopted.

While only a few dioceses in the Philippines have investments in coal, climate justice advocates see the need for collective action among bishops to address the problem.

At least four bishops whose dioceses have investments in coal have vowed to divest their funds immediately.

The Philippine bishops' conference is the fourth conference to announce plans to divest, joining the bishops of Belgium, Ireland and Australia in the global campaign.

In recent months, more than 120 Catholic institutions around the world have already stopped investing in companies that produce destructive energy sources.

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