Filipino sustainable energy advocates to US bankers: Skip gas, go straight to renewable energy

Sustainable energy advocates, led by Protect VIP co-convenor and Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development (CEED) Executive Director Gerry Arances, met with Blackrock, Citigroup, and Morgan Stanley to ask them to invest in renewable energy instead of gas, including liquefied natural gas (LNG), which the Philippine government is now pushing as a bridge fuel in the transition to renewable energy.

The three banks are among the largest investment banks in the United States, with Blackrock alone holding a $61 million investment in local conglomerate San Miguel Corporation (SMC), the largest proponent of gas projects in Southeast Asia.

“There are exciting developments in renewable energy which rebut the narrative of gas being necessary for the transition to renewable energy. The Philippines will be putting up over 13 GW of new renewable energy in the next few years through the Green Energy Auction Program, alongside improved battery technologies. The upcoming auction will offer a total capacity of over 11 GW in renewable energy, with 3,600 for 2024; 3,600 for 2025; and 4,400 for 2026. Tapping renewables will be much more beneficial to consumers than any fossil fuel – the price of renewables in this auction are two or three times less than prices projected for electricity from fossil gas and liquefied natural gas,” said Arances.

“Concerning batteries, SMC itself is leading the way with its new technologies to improve the ability to store electricity from renewable energy, such as its Battery Energy Storage System in Masinloc. But its massive promotion of fossil gas, LNG, and even coal far eclipses all its renewable energy efforts,” he added.

SMC’s proposed and existing gas projects, as well as investments in other fossil fuels, continue to draw the ire of advocates.

“SMC, through one of its subsidiaries, is one of those that chartered MT Princess Empress, which until now is spilling oil into the Verde Island Passage, or VIP. In addition to completely disavowing any responsibility for the ecological disaster, the company’s gas projects will cause more tankers to pass through the area, increasing the chances of another, bigger spill in the future,” said Fr. Edwin Gariguez, lead convenor of Protect VIP.

The advocates are asking the US firms to channel their investments into renewable energy instead. Blackrock is the largest US investor of Shell, with $23.4 billion injected into the fossil fuel giant, which operates an LNG import terminal in Batangas for the Ilijan plant of SMC.

“There is money to be made from renewable energy. Money that is not tainted with the pollution of oil spills, the suffering of those vulnerable to climate change, and the exploitative price of electricity, and can instead assist in advancing sustainability in the Philippines and empowerment of communities and consumers. Our tour is intended to reach out to investors who can force companies like SMC to change and focus on renewables. On this, we hope we are successful, for all our sakes,” said Arances.