The Examiner for Environmental Guidelines of the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) is set to commence an investigation for potential violations by the bank in relation to its support to the Atlantic Gulf & Pacific Company (AG&P), which built a liquefied natural gas import terminal in the biodiversity hotspot known as the Verde Island Passage (VIP).
In December 2023, fisherfolk leaders, local community members, and concerned groups led by the environmental advocacy group Protect VIP filed a complaint with JBIC for its $100M investment together with Osaka Gas to AG&P. AG&P’s LNG terminal in Batangas City is the subject of several complaints from stakeholders related to permit violations on tree cutting, land conversion, and environmental compliance. A confirmed violation of land conversion requirements, in fact, led to a cease and desist order by the Department of Agrarian Reform against the project in August 2022.
“We welcome JBIC’s decision. This is a first step for JBIC to finally hold itself accountable for its contribution to the proliferation of dirty gas energy in our Amazon of the oceans, in helping threaten the livelihood and overall well-being of communities, and in supporting a project that violated national laws. At the same time, it is a sign to all other developers and financial backers of LNG that communities will take a stand against their destructive plans,” said Fr. Edwin Gariguez, lead Convenor of Protect VIP.
The investigation requested by Protect VIP and local stakeholders pertains to the bank’s failure to monitor the compliance of AG&P local unit Linseed with local national laws, failure to properly classify the environmental sensitivity of the project under its own regulations, and failure to take action as demanded by their own guidelines.
“Kapag pinopondohan ng mga bangko gaya ng JBIC ang mga mapanirang proyetkto gaya ng LNG ng AG&P, pinopondohan din nila ang pagkasira ng kabuhayan ng mga mangingisdang gaya namin. Umaasa kami na magiging masinsin ang gagawing imbestigasyon ng JBIC, at magbabantay para matiyak na mabibigyang hustisya ang mga mangingisda at komunidad sa VIP,” said Rodrigo de Jesus, President of the Bukluran ng Mangingisda ng Batangas (BMB).
[When banks like JBIC fund destructive projects like the LNG terminal of AG&P, they are also funding the loss of livelihood of fisherfolk like us. We trust that they will be thorough in the conduct of this investigation. On our part, we will be vigilant to make sure that fisherfolk and communities in the VIP are given justice,” said Rodrigo de Jesus, President of BMB (Solidarity of Fisherfolk in Batangas)]
JBIC is Japan’s wholly government-owned international public finance institution and export credit agency. The complaint is a first of its kind request for investigation to be accepted by the bank on LNG.
“Japan is one of the world’s biggest promoters of continued fossil fuel dependence, and is driving global gas expansion today. Commencing this investigation with its public finance arm is a critical opportunity for Japan to right its wrongs to communities and countries suffering from fossil-fueled socio-economic, environmental, and climate crises. Even US President Biden’s recent decision to stop issuing LNG export approvals should be taken as a sign by Japan that it is high time to rethink its insistence on forcing more LNG and fossil fuels in the Philippines and the rest of the world,” said Gerry Arances, Executive Director of think-tank Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development and co-convenor of Protect VIP.