A Catholic priest has raised the Philippines' "environmental concerns" at an international meeting of experts seeking "solutions for preserving the environment." Father Edwin Gariguez, executive secretary of Caritas Philippines
, raised the "problem and impacts" of coal pollution during the 2018 Green Asia Forum in Korea on Oct. 5. "Environmental pollution is of great concern in the Philippines because of our unbridled and continually increasing carbon footprint," the priest said in his address to the gathering. Father Gariguez told scientists that the main source of greenhouse gas emissions came from coal, which is the principal source of power generation. The Philippines has 19 coal-fired power plants. An additional 39 plants are expected to be operational by 2020. "To support and sustain this number of plants, extensive coal extraction has to be put in place," said the priest. He said the country's coal mining are mostly located within the peripheries of tribal communities. Father Gariguez cited coal mining operations in the province of Antique in the central Philippines as an example of "ecological destruction" that affected many hectares of mangroves. "This has drastically affected a large number of residents who rely on fishing and seaweed farming for food security and livelihood," he said. Environmental activist group Greenpeace
has said that coal is "one of the leading contributors to climate change" in Asia. Father Gariguez, a recipient of the 2012 Goldman Prize
for leading a campaign against mining, said the Philippines can still fulfil its energy demands by building alternatives. "Investment in renewable energy will allow us to pursue sustainable development that is for all," said the priest. Caritas Philippines has already sealed this year a deal with a renewable energy distribution company as part of the church’s campaign against dirty energy. The project aims to install solar panel systems in at least 43 churches.