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Batangas fisher takes mission to stop fuel finance financing to Japan

Maximo "Ka Simo" Bayubay talking in a press conference in Tokyo about liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects in his home province of Batangas.

Fluvial protest conducted by Bukluran ng Mangingisda sa Batangas (BMB) and Protect VIP along the coast of Batangas City in National Fisherfolks Day.


A fisherman from Batangas called on the Japanese government and financial institutions to divest from fossil fuel projects in the Philippines, especially in the biodiversity hotspot Verde Island Passage (VIP). 


Speaking at a press conference titled “Japanese Finance for Fossil Fuel Projects Harm Climate, Environment and Communities — Listen to the Voice of the Filipino People” in Tokyo, Maximo ‘Ka Simo’ Bayubay raised alarm that liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects in his home province of Batangas, south of the Philippine capital, results in the deterioration of water quality and sedimentation along coastlines. 


“We the fisherfolk in the VIP are facing a very difficult life. We are crying for help. Aside from declining fish catch, fossil gas (projects) are sprouting here and there, producing very dirty emissions that are dangerous to human health and polluting the Verde Island Passage,” Bayubay said. 


“They say these (fossil gas projects) will bring jobs, and the people need energy generated from the new power plants. But this is nonsense. A very big nonsense,” he added. “If we are talking about development, there must be no one left behind. This is the true development.” 


Bayubay, 68, is the external vice president of local fisherfolk group Bukluran ng Mangingisda sa Batangas (BMB) (Solidarity of Fisherfolk in Batangas). He has been fishing for over 60 years; both his father and grandfather were also fishermen. 


In April, Bayubay flew for the first time and on his own to engage with banks and financial institutions in Europe. He addressed Switzerland-headquartered UBS during its annual general meeting (AGM) and spoke about local fisherfolk’s plight in the midst of fossil gas expansion.


“Hindi nagbabago ang demand natin: Itigil na ang coal at fossil gas sa VIP at sa Pilipinas as soon as possible, at gaganda ang kalagayan ng mga tao at mangingisda. Ang best solution now is renewable energy. Protect VIP. Also, protect our planet, our common home, a paradise,” Bayubay said.


(Our demand remains: Stop fossil fuel projects in the VIP and the Philippines as soon as possible, so our situation as locals and fisherfolk can improve. The best solution now is renewable energy. Protect VIP. Also, protect our planet, our common home, a paradise.)


The VIP was identified as the world’s “center of the center” of marine shorefish biodiversity, comparable to the “Amazon” of the oceans. Five provinces border namely, Batangas, Marinduque, Occidental Mindoro, Oriental Mindoro, and Romblon.


Batangas province is being positioned as an LNG hub with nine of 39 proposed fossil gas plants and six of seven proposed LNG terminals nationally. 

Japan’s export credit agency Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) and gas company Osaka Gas have investments in Atlantic Gulf & Pacific Company (AG&P), amounting to USD 100 million. AG&P subsidiary Linseed Field Power Corp. developed a recently completed LNG import terminal in Batangas despite opposition from communities.


Amplifying Bayubay’s call, fisherfolk members of BMB and Protect VIP conducted a fluvial protest action along the coast of Batangas City, coinciding with the celebration of National Fisherfolks Day in the Philippines. 


In December 2023, fisherfolk and supporting groups lodged a complaint with JBIC for the project’s violations of environmental regulations, including lack of permits for tree-cutting and land conversion. The project remains under investigation by JBIC. 


San Miguel Corporation (SMC), one of the largest and most diversified conglomerates in the Philippines, controls 4,719 megawatt (MW) of the Philippines’ total national installed capacity. Its power arm San Miguel Global Power Holdings Corp. (SMGPH) owns and operates the 1,200-MW Ilijan Power Plant, while SMGPH subsidiary Excellent Energy Resources Inc. (EERI) developed the 1,750-MW LNG power plant in the same municipality.


Both power infrastructures are located only a kilometer away from a local marine protected area. 


SMC was also involved with the 900,000-liter Oriental Mindoro oil spill in 2023, with total environmental and social damages valued at P41.2 billion.


Japanese banks Mizuho Financial Group, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG), and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation (SMBC) continue to commit finance to SMC.


SMC is also developing a new 1,300-MW fossil gas power plant in Ilijan expected to begin operations by the end of 2024.


Philippine conglomerates Meralco PowerGen Corporation (MGen) and Aboitiz Power Corporation are jointly investing in SMC’s two fossil gas power plants in Ilijan. The three power firms are also investing in the adjacent LNG facility of AG&P to launch the Philippines’ first and most expansive integrated LNG facility. 


Japan’s largest power generation company JERA acquired a 27% stake in Aboitiz. It accessed debt financing amounting to USD 630 million from JBIC to back its acquisition of Aboitiz. 


While in Japan, Bayubay is also scheduled to meet with Japan’s Ministry of Finance, JBIC, Mizuho, SMBC, and Japanese councilors to raise concerns about the continued financing of fossil fuel projects in the Philippines.


Bayubay is joined in Japan by Philippine-based think tank Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development (CEED) and Tokyo-based Friends of the Earth (FOE) Japan.

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