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MANILA, Philippines — A Filipino has joined fellow climate campaigners from around the world in Oslo to call on Norwegian politicians to stop their country from funding of fossil fuel projects worldwide.
“In behalf of the resisting, struggling coal and climate-affected communities of the Philippines, we enjoin Norway, its government, and its people to divest from coal and fossil fuels,” Gerry Arances, coordinator of the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ), told the Norwegian parliament on Thursday, May 21.
Arances said that based on his estimates, Norway funds at least half of coal plants under construction in the Philippines.
The Scandinavian nation boasts the biggest national fund in the world at $900 billion, roughly $12 billion of which is said to be invested in coal. On June 5, its Congress equivalent will vote on whether or not the fund should sell out or divest its fossil fuel investments.
Big companies, big damage
In the Philippines, the fund directly finances the DMCI-owned Semirara Mining and Power Corporation, which operates the oldest and largest coal mine in the country.
“The company scraps up the earth and dumps it into our oceans. They have taken over kilometers of our coral reefs where we used to fish,” said Fely Magan, a resident of Semirara island in Antique. “That is now covered with mining waste. It flows into our mangroves and kills those. It flies in the air and coats our houses and our kids breathe it in. And it kills our seaweed that needs clean water. This is our source of income.”
Magan continued: “When the company wants more land or to clear us from the ocean they just come with their guns and we move because we are afraid. We are being pushed into a tiny corner of the island while they make millions. They will keep digging. They will just make their money and leave us with a big hole and destroyed land.”
DMCI plans to use the low-grade coal mined from Semirara to fuel a coal plant in Palawan, despite years of opposition from residents and green groups alike.
Aboitiz Power Corporation, another beneficiary of the Norwegian fund, is also building coal-fired power plants in the country: one 300-megawatt (MW) plant each in Toril, Davao City, and Toledo, Cebu, and a 600-MW plant in Subic, Zambales.
The Norwegian fund’s investments in the country reached a high in 2013 totaling P23.6 billion, according to PMCJ. It reported holdings in Metro Pacific Investment Corporation, GT Capital Holdings, SM Investments, Petron, Ayala Land, and Universal Robina Corporation, among others.
The so-called “oil fund” has already divested from 114 companies in the past 3 years because of environmental and climate concerns. This includes 32 coal mining companies in 2014, according to a report the fund managers released in February 2015.
Environmentalists and energy analysts alike assert that they are not doing enough.
“Despite this reduction [the Government Pension Fund Global] retains substantial holdings in coal mining companies. The Fund also has significant holdings in utilities and power-generation companies, many of which have coal plants in their generation mix,” Tom Sanzillo, finance director of the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, said in his own report released in May 17.
The oil fund “is invested in companies that collectively account for 42% of the world’s coal production,” according to Norwegian and German green groups.
“While the Norwegian government is doing its best to limit global warming to 2°C, its Pension Fund is clearly playing for the other team.” – Rappler.com
Denise Fontanilla is a Filipina climate activist