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UBS, Standard Chartered draw questions at annual meetings for funding Philippine fossil fuel conglomerate

Protect VIP — a coalition of fisherfolk and environmentalists advocating for the protection of marine biodiversity hotspot Verde Island Passage (VIP) — and groups promoting renewable energy in the Philippines teamed up with Germany-based nonprofit Urgewald, Netherlands-based BankTrack, and Fossil Free Finance Campaign to call on banks and financial institutions to stop funding fossil gas projects in the Philippines. 


In recent weeks, Filipino advocates, including a fisherman from Batangas,  flew to Europe and joined the annual general meetings of Switzerland’s UBS and United Kingdom’s Standard Chartered, which have been found to be the biggest bondholder and lender, respectively, of Philippine conglomerate San Miguel Corporation (SMC). 


SMC is the biggest expansionist of gas power in the Philippines and Southeast Asia with over 15.4 GW in the pipeline. Its gas business poses major risks to the Verde Island Passage - a marine corridor that hosts the greatest concentration of all the world’s known shorefish species. 


“You know that the Verde Island Passage is the center of the center of marine biodiversity, you know that it is in peril now. We are suffering now and you are continuing funding, financing fossil gas. It's a big question for me: Why? What is the importance of life? We all have life. What is the life of future generations? What will we promise to them? If we continue financing this kind of peril?” asked Maximo Bayubay of the Bukluran ng Mangingisda ng Batangas (BMB) in front of shareholders and directors of the Swiss bank.


Think-tank Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development (CEED), meanwhile, informed stakeholders of Standard Chartered that the gas and coal business of SMC are obstructing the country’s energy transition while placing itself in ill financial and reputational health.


“San Miguel is facing a flood of complaints for violating environmental laws and processes. There is massive opposition from across sectors. And in a renewable energy-rich but also climate-vulnerable country like the Philippines, which was found with more than 1,200 gigawatts of RE potential, San Miguel’s choice to double down on fossil fuels does not make sense,” explained Avril De Torres, Deputy Executive Director of CEED at the AGM.


The renewable energy transition has been accelerating in the Philippines, with 5.5 GW of new renewable energy capacity committed to come in the next few years under the government-led Green Energy Auction Program. None of SMC’s subsidiaries have taken part in this upcoming capacity.


The groups also held separate meetings with fossil financiers in Germany and Austria, urging them to divest from San Miguel Corporation (SMC), the largest coal and gas developer in the Philippines. 


European banks provided financing to San Miguel Corporation (SMC)’s power arm San Miguel Global Power Holdings Corp. (SMGPH) through loans and bond holdings primarily to invest in a liquefied natural gas (LNG) power plant project by SMGPH subsidiary Excellent Energy Resources, Inc. (EERI) in Batangas City to the detriment of VIP, also known as the “Amazon of the oceans.”

 

Bayubay is optimistic that Banks would lend their ear and take action to stop the destruction of VIP.


“Through our conversation with financiers, they now understand the problem on the ground – they admitted that they are unaware of the issues. Now that they know, I believe they will listen, as long as we remain united and continue our fight to protect the Verde Island Passage,” said Bayubay.  


Bayubay’s mission will continue as he prepares to leave for Japan in the next two weeks to engage with Japanese financial institutions, which are also financing San Miguel and other gas projects that are destroying the Verde Island Passage. 










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