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Encyclical spurs fight against coal plants

MANILA (Agencies) :  Pope Francis’ encyclical on climate change has inspired Caritas Philippines and other environmental groups to keep the momentum going by sending a strong message against camps backing coal-fired power projects in the country.

In his 184-page encyclical entitled Laudato Si (Be Praised), the pontiff cited a document of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of The Philippines (CBCP) on the environment.

“Who turned the wonder world of the seas into underwater cemeteries bereft of colour and life?” the Pope quoted a CBCP pastoral letter on ecology when he talked about the destruction of marine resources.

Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the CBCP, said the citation was recognition of the pastoral efforts of the local Church in the area of ecological stewardship.

“It is an affirmation that we in The Philippines are in the right direction in teaching that creation is a gift that must be cared for,” Archbishop Villegas said.

He, however, clarified that this was not the first time the Pope cited the CBCP in an encyclical. According to him, the pontiff also quoted a CBCP statement in his first encyclical, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel).

Father Edu Gariguez, executive secretary of Caritas Philippines, said they support the landmark document Laudato Si, even if it goes against the powerful interests that benefit from the status quo.

He was quoted by the CBCP News as saying that the Church now faces the task of motiviating the faithful to take concrete steps in reducing the country’s contribution to climate change. 

“We, the Church and the people of The Philippines, will stand alongside the Pope as strong allies in the struggle for a socially just, environmentally sustainable and spiritually rich world that Pope Francis and the broader climate movement are fighting for,” Father Gariguez said. 

He said the Church raises critical issues that need to be considered in the global response to this unprecedented threat through the encyclical.

He said global capitalism has lifted millions out of poverty by burning fuels. However, he added, on the other hand, it has created vast inequalities and sacrificed the environment over short-term gain.

“Now is the time to break the stranglehold of fossil fuels over our lives and the planet. If it is wrong to wreck the planet then it is wrong to benefit from its wreckage; a growing global movement to divest from fossil fuels takes this ethos at heart,” Father Gariguez said.

Last month, more than a thousand demonstrators, led by Church leaders, staged a rally against a proposed coal-fired power plant in Atimonan, Quezon.

Similarly, priests in Batangas are also at the forefront of the fight against the construction of a new coal power plant project.

“The Church cannot remain a passive bystander. It is our moral imperative to give voice to the voiceless,” added Father Gariguez.

As for coal mining, he also said the Church has been vocal in opposing it because it will make our country contribute to global warming, endanger ecosystems, as well as the health and lives of people.

“Our Churches have often led the struggles against dirty energy,” he said.

 

The Philippines is not a major coal producer in the world but has over 12 coal-fired power stations financed by international institutions. The Philippine Movement for Climate Justice said there are 26 new coal plant projects that will operate in the country by year 2020.