Philippine Catholic Church intensifies environmental protection campaign 

July 9, 2024

Leading church officials announced on Monday that the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) Plenary Assembly approved major resolutions aimed at strengthening campaigns for ‘integral ecology’.

In a press briefing held at Chali Conference Center in Cagayan de Oro City in the southern Philippines, CBCP President Bishop Pablo Virgilio David said the Catholic Church has “consistently raised the alarm on issues pertaining to environmental abuse in our country.” 

The prelate said that the CBCP has approved becoming a co-signatory on a joint letter with other Episcopal Conferences. This letter, addressed to Pope Francis and the Dicastery for Divine Worship, proposes celebrating the Feast of Creation in unity with neighboring Christian churches.

The bishops’ Conference has resolved to uphold its commitment to divest from financial institutions engaged in environmentally destructive businesses, including extractive mining and industries that are considered anti-life by 2025. 

Bishop Gerardo Alminaza, vice-president of Caritas Philippines, said the bishops’ Conference has devised a “scorecard” to help the bishops identify the financial institutions, “mainly banks, that have investments or giving loans to these industries that are harming our environment.”

“For the last three years already, we have published these scorecards, and these are available [to the public], he said.

Bishop Alminaza, however, said that the Catholic Church is still open to “dialogue” with these financial institutions “to ask them to come up with policies that would help us walk the talk.”

“Because we are also depositors and some of us are shareholders in these banks, we use our positions to engage in dialogue with them,” he added.

In 2022, the bishops said they would withdraw investments from banks if the banks do not adopt explicit policies to move away from fossil fuels by 2025.

The CBCP Plenary Assembly also reaffirmed its earlier commitment to refuse donations from individuals and companies engaged in environmentally harmful activities, such as the ones previously mentioned.

Bishop David encouraged the public to report to the Conference “any bishop or diocese that is probably accepting donations from specific businesses or industries involved in activities that are destructive to the environment.”

In its 2021 Ecology Report, Caritas Philippines named several church leaders who allegedly accepted “dirty donations” from dirty energy project proponents and huge corporations. 

Fr. Manuel T. Catral, the incoming Pastoral Programs Director of the Archdiocese of Tuguegarao, lauded the bishops for reaffirming their decision to refuse donations from corporations involved in environmentally harmful projects.

The priest, however, urged the bishops to offer “concrete assistance” to help poor communities affected by these destructive projects cope.

“How can we empower them and walk shoulder to shoulder with them to protect our common home?” asked Catral.

To advance the campaign for sustainable and renewable energy, the bishops agreed to endorse and support the “10 million solar rooftops challenge.”

Bishop Alminaza said that this project, in collaboration with civil society organizations, aims to promote the use of solar energy in Filipino households.

“This approach is much more sustainable compared to corporate solar farms, which can impact food security when they convert agricultural lands into massive solar farms,” the prelate said in a separate interview.

The 128th CBCP Plenary Assembly, held for the first time in Mindanao, has elevated the “Ecology Desk” to the “Integral Ecology Ministry” across all ecclesiastical jurisdictions in the country.

In its 2019 Pastoral Letter on Ecology, the CBCP encouraged dioceses to create an ecology desk, which can be established under the Diocesan Social Action Ministry. 

According to Caritas Philippines, out of 85 dioceses across the country, 68 have existing ecology desks as of 2023, but only 29 are functioning with a clear ecology program.

During the press briefing, Bishop David told reporters that the CBCP is set to issue a pastoral statement committing to actively combat plastic pollution and support the ecological solid waste management efforts of both government and non-government agencies.

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