There could have been no better time to bring back to life the CBCP Monitor, which is a most useful instrument for the Catholic faithful in our beloved country to ponder on how we can live our Christianity in the everyday. The world has seemingly reshaped itself in the last three years, but truth be told, much has stayed the same in our society—the ailing health of our Common Home; the disproportional suffering of the poor and vulnerable; the continued exploitation of peoples, lands, and seas; and the relentless prioritization of profit over people by the country and the world’s most powerful companies and entities. What has changed and continues to create ripples of change is the collective power of peoples taking a stand to be stewards of this world we live in and of one another.

I am thus honored to have the opportunity to contribute to this new run of the CBCP Monitor. Here, we will endeavor to celebrate those who boldly take a stand amid adversities and powers that be, which are harming our people and planet. Here, we will strive to be on the side of hope, raising alarm over the climate and ecological crises, social injustices that continue to plague us, and, most importantly, putting forward solutions and action towards the hope for a livable and just future. We will strive to be in the fence of hope.

Whichever corner of the Philippines you may find yourself in, opportunities to turn ourselves into soldiers of hope abound.

Across the country, destructive projects and industries assault communities and nature left and right. Despite being resisted for over a decade and despite victories earned by advocates for clean energy, coal-fired power plants are still being built today—including in our last ecological frontier, Palawan. Coal mining is also threatening to wreak havoc in Lake Sebu in Mindanao, with proponents ignoring the cries of the earth and of indigenous peoples against mining proposals. Now, massive plans for gas power have emerged in the country with over 40 LNG power and import projects in the pipeline—including in San Carlos City.

Detrimental technologies and infrastructure are also finding their way into harming our collective wellbeing. Challenges risking the disempowerment of communities also continue to take shape, such as a resisted joint venture agreement in an electric cooperative in my home of Negros Island, CENECO, which would work in favor of the cooperative’s privatization.

The Church has made strides in upholding the stewardship of our Common Home and, in turn, of Filipinos whose lives are woven into the health of our lands, seas, and air. Last year, for example, we issued a Pastoral Statement on Ecology, containing some of our most ambitious and comprehensive hopes and commitments.

But a year and a half since leaders of the Philippine Catholic Church called on domestic banks and other financial institutions to halt in their reckless support to dirty and destructive fossil fuels through the Pastoral Statement, these institutions continue to shower coal, gas, and other dirty projects and companies in the country with money. You, dear reader, are likely stakeholders of at least one or some of these banks, be it as a depositor, shareholder, or others, because it is some of our biggest domestic financiers that are taking the lead in fossil financing. The Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI), for example, accounts for the biggest contribution to coal power plants since the last decade among other Philippine banks. It remains the biggest coal bank regardless of whether or not its portfolio includes a power plant project it was contesting as not included in a bank assessment initiative led by Withdraw from Coal (WFC), which I am a part of. Communities who are afflicted with hosting the projects that BPI helped build also thus continue to suffer from pollution, as is the case with the notoriously polluting Limay, Bataan coal plant, and consumers with unreliable and costly power. Meanwhile, finance for similarly costly and dirty gas power is ramping up, with BDO taking the lead.

Ever stronger calls from the Church for the recognition of the climate crisis—including the declaration of a climate emergency coupled with demands for higher climate, energy transition, and ecological conversion ambitions and commitments—are all the more critical today.

We can go on and on on this topic, and so we shall in this same paper. But for today, may strength and courage from our dear Creator allow you to always stand in the fence of hope.
Ever onwards!*


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