BPI can do more to make PH ready for a coal-free future

Withdraw from Coal (WFC), an initiative led by civil society and faith-based groups, welcomed in a statement over the weekend the latest expression made by the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) on its intent to eventually end its coal lending activities with an announcement by BPI CEO Jose Teodoro ‘TG’ Limcaoco that the bank would seek to have zero coal in its loans portfolio by 2033 - four years earlier than its projected timeline disclosed in April.


Among fifteen domestic banks identified to have provided financial support to the coal industry in the last decade, BPI has the highest contribution with at least 15 coal power projects and 6 coal developing companies among its clientele.


“This update from its earlier commitment is a good indication of the direction BPI intends to take under the new leadership of President Limcaoco - a direction we hope drives toward a future powered by sustainable energy. We are glad to see that the bank is beginning to listen to its stakeholders crying for the protection of our environment and people from coal, and we hope BPI would continue on this path by ensuring its energy investments are fully channeled to the development of renewables instead of any other destructive source,” said Bishop Gerry Alminaza, long term clean energy advocate and co-convenor of WFC.


BPI, however, needs to step up its clean energy ambitions in order to assist the country in moving away from coal and aligning to climate and energy transition imperatives, the group said.


“BPI is exhibiting potential to aid the country in carving its way out of dependence from coal, but we are concerned that it is setting the bar low with little clarity in just how much coal it still intends to support for well over a decade,” commented Gerry Arances, WFC co-convenor and Executive Director of think-tank Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development.


In a report, WFC in April called attention to a new commitment made by BPI to underwrite over P1 billion of AboitizPower’s new corporate retail bond to be used to redeem 2014 bonds that were utilized to fund coal plants in Pagbilao, Cebu, and Davao.


“BPI is still generously giving itself space to keep financing coal developers and projects, and mixed signals from the country’s top coal bank do little for the Philippines’ low carbon transition. We urge BPI to integrate both direct and indirect financing, including underwriting and corporate finance, in coming up with more stringent restriction policies and coal exit plans that respect the country’s aim to peak its emissions by 2030 or even earlier,” Arances said.


In July, the Department of Energy (DOE) also confirmed that Meralco's Atimonan One Energy is in talks with its financiers to extend the loan facility for its 1,200 MW coal project in Quezon, for which BPI is the lead arranger and a book runner.


“We also challenge BPI to stay true to its earlier claim that it already has its hands off the Atimonan project, in order to spare the people of Quezon and other affected communities from further detriments. BPI must drop any new coal project it is still funding if it hopes to turn itself into a sustainability leader and even begin making amends for fueling the suffering of Filipinos from coal,” added Fr. Warren Puno, Director of the Ministry of Ecology of the Diocese of Lucena and parish priest in Atimonan.