Don't invest in coal, Philippine church groups say

Banks urged to invest more ethically and abandon fossil fuels for renewable energy
Don't invest in coal, Philippine church groups say

Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of San Carlos (third left) leads the launch on March 7 of "clean and affordable electricity" as an issue that should be discussed by candidates in the coming Philippine elections. (Photo by Roy Lagarde)

Church groups in the Philippines are calling on financial institutions to turn away from coal and place funds, especially church funds, into renewable energy.

The call was made at the launch in Manila on March 7 of a campaign for clean and cheap energy.

"We are now being challenged to fully commit to our advocacy campaigns," said Father Edwin Gariguez, executive secretary of the social action arm of the Catholic bishops’ conference.

He urged financial institutions to ditch investments in coal, other dirty energy and extractive industries.

Father Gariguez also called on banks where church funds are deposited to disclose where the money is being invested.

"We want these financial institutions to disclose to us where they have invested their funds ... and support the renewable energy sector," he said.

"Our development funds are raised to uplift the lives and dignity of the poor and the vulnerable. Having them invested in coal and other extractive industries is one way of killing the people we are mandated to protect," the priest said.

"We cannot allow that from continuously happening," Father Gariguez added.

Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of San Carlos suggested financial institutions consider the "environmental, social and economic impacts brought about by their continued support for coal."

"[T]he cry of the Earth is one with the cry of the poor: to abandon this path of death and destruction fueled by fossil fuels, and deliver on the promise of clean and affordable energy for the people," said the bishop.

He said large banking institutions should not only consider profits, "but also the ethics of their investments."

Brother John Din, national coordinator of the Global Catholic Climate Movement, expressed hope that Catholic dioceses and congregations nationwide would issue the same call.

"Imagine the power to pressure the banks ... if all congregations here including the [bishops] apply pressure," Din said.

In a statement, Din said institutions representing the Catholic clergy and lay people must, "express unity in [asking] financial institutions to direct their investment toward renewable energy."

"We call on our national and local banks to consider the environmental and social impact brought about by coal-fired plants and coal mining," he added.

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He said the issue of energy is "not only political and not merely economical ... it is also a moral issue."

Bishop Alminaza said there was already dialogue among bishops about the investment issue. "We are just waiting for the right time to come out with a pastoral letter for greater impact," he said.

In 2017, new coal plant projects declined by 62 percent globally. In the Philippines, however, several coal-fired power projects remain in the pipeline.

The Philippines is largely a coal-consuming country with coal making the highest contribution to the power generation mix at 44.5 percent in 2015 according to the Department of Energy.

Local demand for coal is not limited to power generation. In 2015, the cement industry utilized 15.22 percent of the country’s coal supply, five percent went to other industries such as alcohol, rubber boots, paper and chemical manufacturing, fertilizer production and smelting processes. 

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