By Bong Fabe
CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY—A leader of the Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines has asked for forgiveness from the present generation and future generations of Filipinos for his generation’s failures that have spawned various environmental problems that put lives at risk.
Catholic Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of the Diocese of San Carlos in Negros Occidental also urged his generation and older to acknowledge their failures, “take responsibility” and “start acting” conscientiously to make a better living environment for future generations to come.
“We acknowledge that our generation somehow failed in a lot of ways. And we need to really take responsibility as well and really ask for forgiveness not only from the young generation, of the generation yet to come, but also from the rest of God’s creation that we have abused,” he said during the closing day (Friday, February 28) of the three-day 3rd Environment Summit in this capital city of Northern Mindanao.
Alminaza also called on Filipino young people to stand up and be like Greta Thunberg, the Swedish climate activist who has gained worldwide attention for not mincing words in castigating adults for their failures.
The bishop expressed his gratefulness to Greta for expressing the present climate emergency “eloquently, powerfully and effectively.”
In the first part of his talk, Alminaza showed a video of an angry Greta who castigated world leaders for going their merry “business-as-usual” way even when “our house is on fire.”
“I hope that we are ready to respond to her challenge and start acting,” the prelate said after the video showing.
Alminaza said that the whole world is not ignorant about the impacts of climate change nor of the environmental crisis we are in now because “we experience it.”
“We are witnesses to the emergency. We are in a climate emergency,” he stressed.
Shift to RE Now!
“In a state of climate emergency, it is urgent that we shift to RE, renewable energy. No more coal, please,” he urged.
Alminaza, a leader of the “Withdraw from Coal” campaign, lamented the lack of political will to transition to renewable energy despite President Duterte’s marching order issued during the last State of the Nation Address (SONA) in July 2019 “to fast-track renewable energy (RE) resources to reduce the country’s dependence on traditional energy sources such as coal.”
“I still have to see the political will and the complete transition plan, especially from the DOE, DENR to realize this,” the bishop said.
The “Withdraw from Coal” campaign, a coalition of civil society and faith-based groups is demanding the urgent and just divestment by Philippine banks from fossil fuels, especially coal. They have a dialogue with DENR Sec. Roy Cimatu recently during which the secretary, according to Alminaza, admitted that his department has still a lot of work to do. The bishop added that Cimatu also admitted the need to close the coal-fired power plants in the country as these are “pollutants.”
Banks must divest from coal:
During his presentation at the Summit, Alminaza disclosed that the DOE has approved 29 new coal plants, while reiterating his group’s coal for banks to divest from coal and invest in RE. These will add a total of 12,014 MW of coal power to the grid, making the Philippines the ninth biggest coal expansionist in the world.
“Banks financing coal is not only funding the climate crisis, but they are also enabling the continued suffering of coal-affected communities,” he stressed, adding that in 10 years alone, the Philippines saw the rise of 16 coal-fired power plants all over the archipelago.
Alminaza said that they have identified 13 local banks that loaned or underwritten US$6.303 billion to coal interests from 2017 to the third quarter of 2019. Two of these banks, he said, are the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) and Banco de Oro, which combined accounts for nearly 55 percent of this finances to coal.
The San Carlos bishop also circulated during the Summit a petition letter addressed to BPI that recommended that the Catholic Church’s investments and deposits be used to promote RE, not coal.
“Our money as depositors and shareholders are being used to fund coal-fired power plants that produce overpriced- electricity while polluting the air and ground, poisoning our people. Let us put a stop to this…The idea of divestment is not radical or impossible. Around the world, many banks and financial institutions have withdrawn funding for coal-fired power plants,” the petition letter said.
Majority of the participants, led by Archbishop Antonio J. Ledesma of Cagayan de Oro, signed it.
(Bong D. Fabe is now with WWF-Philippines as Integrated Communications Manager for the SMILE Project)
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