Traveling over 8,000 miles, advocacy group and stakeholders’ network Protect Verde Island Passage (Protect VIP) is meeting with banks, pension funds, and other financial institutions in the United Stated to raise alarm over their funding of fossil companies like San Miguel Corporation (SMC) and Shell, which equates to funding the destruction of a biodiversity hotspot in the Philippines and threatening the country’s climate ambitions and energy transition.
A marine corridor encompassing five provinces, the Verde Island Passage (VIP) is home to the greatest concentration of biodiversity among any other marine habitat in the world, making it an Amazon of the Oceans. It is, however, also the epicenter of fossil fuel destruction with 5 operating gas-fired power plants, 8 liquefied natural gas (LNG) plants in the pipeline, and 8 LNG terminals, two of which have reportedly concluded their construction phase. In February, the sinking of a tanker carrying 900,000 liters of industrial fuel oil also caused an oil spill that now spreads over the VIP.
“The Verde Island Passage is home to the most diverse concentration of marine life in the world, a miracle of nature. It breathes life to surrounding waters as a cradle of so many species, and to the day to day lives of millions of Filipinos as source of their livelihood and food. Amid it being the unfortunate victim of a devastating oil spill, the Philippines’ first LNG tanker also recently docked in the VIP - marking the start of a massive increase in shipping activities and pollution. Many more are set to come. Financial institutions can help pull the brakes on this by listening to the cries of nature and our communities and stopping their support to SMC, Shell, and other fossil gas developers,” said Father Edwin Gariguez, Lead Convenor of Protect VIP.
Earlier in May, Gariguez and other advocates also toured Europe to bring the call to end fossil financing in the VIP at the doorstep of European financiers. As a result of such engagements, DWS asked Shell about the Verde Island Passage during the bank’s AGM last month.
Shell and SMC are among the most prominent developers of fossil gas in the VIP. In its annual stockholders meeting held earlier this month, SMC announced that it aims to achieve a net-zero emission target by 2050 despite being currently the biggest fossil gas and LNG developer in the Philippines and Southeast Asia, as detailed in a recent report. SMC’s massive gas expansion is facing opposition from communities and stakeholders across the country, as was seen in protests held by concerned groups on the day of SMC’s ASM and through letters and statements published by communities and Bishops.
Gerry Arances, Executive Director of think-tank Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development (CEED) and co-convenor of Protect VIP, had already met with Blackrock over the weekend. Blackrock is SMC’s largest US investor with $61 million.
"Giving a climate-vulnerable country like the Philippines a chance to hit its climate targets and have a livable future means no space for new gas. Banks and corporations must stop using their tired excuse of posturing gas as a necessity for energy transition which allows them to profit off their current relationships with San Miguel Corporation and Shell. What we need is for banks to fully support the growth of genuinely clean energy, not lock us into decades of more dependency on deadly fossil fuels. US banks must stop financing fossil fuel expansion everywhere in the world, and may they be reminded that there is no place for gas in protected areas in my home country," said Arances.
Arances is set to meet with other Wall Street institutions like Citibank, Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, and Wells Fargo urging them to examine their role in funding fossil fuel projects in the VIP and the Philippines.