Catholic bishops in the Philippines have pledged to pull the plug on investing in "dirty energy" like coal-fired power plants.
The decision was made during the prelates' biannual plenary that ended early this week.Father Edwin Gariguez
, executive secretary of the social action arm of the Catholic bishops' conference, said the bishops would instead place xhurch money in renewable sources of energy.
The priest, however, told ucanews.com that it would be a long process because there are legal procedures that have to be followed.
Divesting from companies that produce dirty energy is one of the 10 action points presented by Father Gariguez to the bishops as part of a campaign to promote the encyclical Laudato si'
He said the Vatican has been asking Philippine church leaders what have they done in response to the challenge set by Pope Francis' encyclical on the environment.
"I told the bishops that we need to come up with a pastoral letter but it should be accompanied by action points because we need to 'walk the talk,'" said Father Gariguez. "We need concrete action in relation to the challenges of Laudato si’
," he added.
At least four bishops whose dioceses have investments in coal vowed to divest their funds immediately.
Early this year, ucanews.com learned that talks were underway for Catholic dioceses to withdraw their holdings in dirty energy, including investments in mining.
Several dioceses and religious congregations that used to have huge investments in oil and mining, including Manila Archdiocese, divested their shares as early as 2014.
Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of San Carlos in the central Philippines said there is a need to respond to the challenge of climate change with urgency.
The prelate revealed that the bishops' conference would release a pastoral letter that will present an assessment of the environmental situation "and some very concrete action points."
Bishop Alminaza said the action points, which should be introduced, are long overdue.
"The whole [bishops' conference], acting as one collegial body, [is]) not just making a call but committing ourselves to 'walk the talk,'" said the prelate.
"As Filipino Catholic Christians, we need to make sure we don’t simply become rich at the expense of our environment
and the health and survival even of our children and grandchildren."
The Philippines is largely a coal-consuming country, with coal having the highest contribution to the power generation mix at 44.5 percent in 2015, according to government data.
Local demand for coal is not limited to power generation. In 2015, the cement industry used 15.22 percent of the country’s coal supply, while 5 percent went to other industries such as alcohol, sinter, rubber boots, paper and chemical manufacturing, fertilizer production and smelting processes.
A report released by Greenpeace in 2016 revealed that there are an estimated 2,410 premature deaths in the Philippines each year due to strokes, ischemic heart disease, other cardiovascular diseases and respiratory diseases from coal-related pollution.