Bishops agree to reject donations from ‘destructive’ industries

The CBCP office. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

MANILA, Philippines — The Catholic Church is adopting a policy in which it will withdraw resources and reject donations from environmentally “destructive” businesses, such as fossil fuel production, mining and logging.

In a statement released Saturday following a two-day plenary assembly, the Philippine Conference of Catholic Bishops (CBCP) said that “many financial institutions in which we place our trust have been instrumental [in] the rise of fossil fuels, as well as other destructive and exploitative industries like mining and logging.

The CBCP called for the “reorientation[ing]of financial resources “to deactivate the coal industry” and “to pave the way for a complete elimination of all other polluting energies”.

The statement also called on the Church to have “all institutions holding [its] financial resources … moving[d] away from extractive industries.

He also called for a withdrawal – “no later than 2025” – of Church resources from banks and other financial institutions “without clear commitments…to divest from fossil fuels.”

‘Laudato Si’

The bishops said the stance was in line with an earlier pastoral letter, issued in 2019, which also encouraged divestment from environmentally destructive industries, and Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical ‘Laudato Si’, Mi’ Signore (“Praise be to You, My Lord”), which addressed “Caring for Our Common Home.”

During a press briefing also on Saturday, Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, president of the CBCP, said that a “non-acceptance policy” regarding certain donations will be adopted by the bishops of the respective dioceses.

“Our people must be very critical, especially our priests,” he added. “You can see [the sources] donate, but their industry is destructive to our environment [and] it is very contrary to our mission.

“We will try to reach out to these people, especially if they are Roman Catholics. We will just tell them that there is also a sin against the environment… We can also call them,” added David.

“I’m sure most of them have well-meaning intentions. They are probably not even aware of the extent of the abuse their companies are involved in. We can have a dialogue about this,” the Bishop said.

Some of the larger dioceses and religious groups are known to hold shares in financial institutions and other companies.

As of December 31, 2020, the Archbishop of Manila, for example, owned 7.3% of the shares of Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI), according to information posted on the bank’s website.

The bank’s founding shareholders were primarily charities and endowments associated with the Catholic Church, according to the website.

‘Guilty’

Withdraw From Coal (WFC), a coalition of environmental activists, civil society groups and faith-based organizations, identified BPI as one of the banks that funded coal projects from 2009 to 2019.

“For years, communities in the Philippines have been denouncing the contribution of financial institutions, especially national banks, to the dominance of coal in our energy mix,” said Bishop Gerry Alminaza of the Diocese of San Carlos in Negros Province. Western, who is also a WFC organizer.

Alminaza said many banks had become “guilty[s] to the rapidly expanding pipeline of fossil gas projects.

“We hope these banks will finally hear the voice of reason from the community of faith, in which some [are] their biggest customers and stakeholders,” he said.

—WITH AN INQUIRER RESEARCH REPORT

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