The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has issued a policy statement on ecology that includes the rejection of donations of “whatever kind” from mining and other environmentally “destructive” industries.
In a “pastoral statement” released on Saturday, January 29, the country’s Church leaders said the proposed measures and policies to address the impacts of the climate crisis “should always place social and ecological justice at the forefront.”
They said the Philippines “has the moral imperative of pursuing the most sustainable development pathway possible for the sake of current and future generations, ensuring that the voices of everyone are accounted for.”
“The task of ensuring this becomes all the more apparent in the context of an upcoming national election that will shape governance in our country during this critical decade for climate and ecological action,” read the bishops’ statement.
Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of Kalookan, CBCP president, said a separate statement on the coming national elections is still being drafted and will be released in the later part of the month of February.
In an online media briefing, Bishop David said the policy will be implemented by the bishops themselves in their respective dioceses.
“And of course the point persons in each community are the parish priests, the school directors, and in other institutions run by the Roman Catholic Church,” said the prelate.
“Our people need to be very critical, especially our parish priests. While we have several needs in our pastoral work, let us not compromise the welfare of our environment,” said Bishop David.
Among the policies that the bishops agreed to implement is the rejection of “dirty donations of whatever kind” from destructive industries, such as mining and coal.
Bishop David said business owners and proponents of environmentally “destructive and extractive industries” need not donate to the Catholic Church “to avoid embarrassment.”
He urged Church leaders to be critical in verifying the source of donations.
The pastoral statement titled “A call for unity and action amid a climate emergency and planetary crisis” was released after the bishops’ two-day online plenary assembly last week.
The statement said the decision to come up with a policy reaffirms the Church’s commitment “to lead by example” in promoting the use of renewable energy and other sustainable systems.
The move comes two years after the country’s Catholic bishops agreed not to allow the financial resources of Catholic institutions to be invested in extractive projects.
“It is unacceptable that finances so graciously provided to us are used for such industries,” read the statement.
“Financial resources must be used solely for the Common Good, Integrity of Creation, and the Glory of our Creator,” it added.
The statement also urged banking institutions that are funding coal, fossil gas, and other “destructive energy” to come up with policies and plans to restrict and eventually phase out their involvement in such industries.
“Without this commitment, the Church intends to fully divest its assets from financial institutions and corporations invested in said ecologically-harmful activities by 2025, and hold them accountable to their fiduciary duties and moral obligations as climate actors,” it added.
“There’s something called walking the talk. So this is a good statement issued to show that we will really make efforts and for our Church institutions to put it into practice,” said Bishop Mylo Hubert Vergara of Pasig, CBCP vice president.
The pastoral statement is CBCP’s third on ecology after the 1988 statement titled “What is happening to our beautiful land.” The second statement was released in 2019 titled “An Urgent Call for Ecological Conversion, Hope in the Face of Climate Emergency.”
The bishops said the new pastoral statement “is a testimony of the Church’s long-standing regard for the care of God’s creation” guided by the wisdom of Pope Francis’s encyclical, Laudato si’.
Father Antonio Labiao, executive secretary of Caritas Philippines, said that with the latest statement, “the Catholic Church has drawn the line.”
“We will ensure that our due-diligence policies are in place. It is [no longer] business as usual,” said the priest.
In December 2021, Caritas Philippines released a report on the state of the Philippine Church’s ecological movement that named several Church leaders who accepted “dirty donations.”
Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of San Carlos, lead convenor of the group Withdraw from Coal Coalition, urged financial institutions and corporations to consider the new pastoral letter as a call for ecological conversion.
“We challenge them to take the [pastoral letter on ecology] as an invitation to exhibit genuine leadership in advancing climate action by ending their fossil fuel funding and paving the path to a future powered by clean energy from renewables,” he said. – with a report from Mark Saludes