The Catholic church has included retracting church funds from banks investing in coal plants as part of their efforts in campaigning against the construction and operation of coal power plants.
In a Business Mirror report, Caritas Philippines, the Diocese of San Carlos, and the Global Catholic Climate Movement (GCCM) in a press conference vowed to pull church funds as a last resort if the banks would refuse to invest their funds in more sustainable sources of energy.
Negros Occidental Bishop Gerardo A. Alminaza said they would start talks with the banks handling church funds.
“Our first step is we will make our intention clear to them and appeal to them to divest…our next move will depend on their reaction,” Alminaza told BusinessMirror reporters.
He also added that in his diocese, he already sent feelers with officers of the banks to discuss the matter.
Based on the report of Global Coal Exit List, Caritas Philippines Executive Sec. Edwin Gariguez said that coal developers have loans and underwritings with Banco de oro-Unibank; Bank of the Philippine Islands; and China Banking Corp.
The loans reportedly amount to P1.3 billion; P1.2 billion; and P1.1 billion respectively.
“We, therefore, call on these banks to consider the environmental, social and economic impacts brought about by their continued coal support, and begin to move away from giving financial support to such projects,” Gariguez said.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippine has already approved the position, Alminaza said
He added that they hope the CBCP will be able to come out with an official position paper on July.
“Before we also made the same move for gambling and mining, but this will be the first time we will come out with a explicit message on the issue,” Alminaza said.
GCCM-Pilipinas National Coordinator John Din said they are also trying to discuss the action plan among other religious orders nationwide.
“We have 85 to 86 dioceses, but we have more religious congregations than that. Imagine if just one congregation has P1 million as an investment, you can imagine the power and pressure to the banks to divest from bank investments,” Din said.
One of the civic leaders pushing for coal-free Philippines Gerry Arances said right now there are 28 coal power plants operating nationwide, and another 30 awaiting completion.
Arances said they were able to “freeze” the operations of coal plant with energy capacity of 6 GW since 2012 but noted that there is still work to be done, especially on the government’s side, to completely halt the operations of coal power plants due to its hazardous effects on health and environment.
He also added that this was the reason behind their opposing stand against the Executive Order 30 of President Rodrigo Duterte and the pending Murang Kuryente Bill in the Senate. He said it promotes the usage of coal plants.
“As long as the government supports it and the policy is still in place, then that will serve as a market signal for investors to ahead with it,” Arances said.