Philippine Bishops pledge concrete action against climate crisis

The Bishops of the Philippines issue a pastoral statement on ecology reaffirming their commitment “to lead by example” in promoting the use of renewable energy and other sustainable systems.

By Lisa Zengarini

The Philippine Bishops have pledged to divest all local Church assets from financial institutions and corporations invested in ecologically-harmful activities by 2025, and have agreed to refuse donations from all environmentally “destructive” industries, including mining companies.

Leading by example

The pledge is contained in a new Pastoral Statement on ecology released on 29 January after their two-day online Plenary Assembly last week.

Following a previous Pastoral Letter on the climate crisis issued in 2019, the five-page document reaffirms the Bishops’ Conference (CBCP) commitment “to lead by example” in promoting the use of renewable energy and other sustainable systems, as called for by the recent COP-26 in Glasgow.

The Bishops note that, after the pause imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic, the world is now swiftly returning to polluting practices that have caused so much damage to our common home and have resulted in intensified calamities, particularly hitting vulnerable countries. 

Sustainable development: a moral imperative 

“As one of the most vulnerable nations in this era of global emergency, 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 Bishops write.

They remark that 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.”

No more investments in fossil fuels

The CBCP, therefore, reiterates its commitment to “concrete ecological actions in caring for our Common Home”, also in light of the recent COP-26 conclusions in Glasgow.

The Bishops call on all Church institutions not to allow their financial resources to be invested in coal-fired power plants, mining companies and other extractive projects that destroy the environment and affect local communities.

“It is unacceptable that finances so graciously provided to us are used for such industries. Financial resources must be used solely for the Common Good, Integrity of Creation, and the Glory of our Creator,” they say.

Non-acceptance policy of donations

They also invite all Church entities to follow the CBCP-initiated non-acceptance policy of donations “from owners or operators and any representative of extractive industries especially coal, fossil gas, mining, quarrying, logging.”

Implementing the Laudato si’ National Program

The Bishops of the Philippines further commit to continue to push forward the implementation of their “Laudato Si’ National Program”, which was launched by the CBCP in 2019 in all ecclesial communities. Each Philippine diocese is to establish a special “Ecological Desk” with adequate funds for its activities.

The statement encourages dioceses across the country to intensify education efforts on environmental matters in schools, in collaboration with civil society and other faith-based organizations so to popularize Pope Francis’ suggested “little daily actions” highlighted in the Encyclical “Laudato Si'”.

The CBCP has also decided to institutionalize the annual celebration of the “Time of Creation” in Autumn and the “Laudato Si’ Week”.

Support for Bill on the Rights of Nature 

Finally, the Bishops reiterate their full support for the Bill on the Rights of Nature, which is currently being discussed by the National Congress.

The proposed law aims to regulate and limit mining, fossil fuels, aggressive forms of land development and exploitation, and other forms of ecological destruction, thus protecting the lives of many indigenous groups and local communities.

“We believe that the proposed legislation would serve as a barrier to detrimental projects that would only benefit the few while exacerbating the climate vulnerability of many,” the Bishops say.