By Roy Lagarde

(Roy Lagarde / File Photo)

The country’s Catholic bishops have agreed to divest from “dirty energy” sources such as coal-fired power plants.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) is the world’s most recent church institution to declare it would divest from fossil fuels. 

The decision was reached over the weekend as the bishops gathered for their plenary assembly in Manila. 

Fr. Edwin Gariguez, Caritas Philippines executive secretary, said the dioceses would instead invest funds in renewable sources of energy. 

“A milestone for the Church ecology advocacy!” Gariguez said. 

Gariguez said the divestment is part in their 10 action points for the Laudato si’ campaign that the CBCP had adopted. Laudato si’ is Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment.

Before the decision, the Vatican asked about what the Philippine church had done in response to the landmark encyclical, he said.

Gariguez was among the speakers on the environment during the bishops’ meeting on July 7.

“I told the bishops that we need to come up with a pastoral letter but it should be accompanied by action points because we need to walk the talk,” he said. 

“I challenged the body, we need to really find ways on how to live the Laudato si’ as a Church,” Gariguez added. 

He, however, admitted that full divestment would take some time because of the legal procedures that must be observed.

While only a few dioceses have investments in coal, climate justice advocates see the need for “collective action” among bishops to address the problem. 

At least four bishops whose dioceses have investments in coal have vowed to divest their funds immediately.

Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of San Carlos diocese in Negros Occidental said church finances must not be invested at the expense of the environment. 

He said the bishops’ conference would soon release a pastoral letter on ecology with “concrete action points.”

The CBCP is the most recent church institution to announce plans to divest from fossil fuels, joining the prelates of Belgium, Ireland and Australia in a worldwide campaign. 

In recent months, over 120 Catholic institutions have pulled the plug on investing in companies that produce destructive energy sources.