Energy Shift Southeast Asia

Verde Island Passage advocates confront climate change funders in Europe

Protect VIP, a coalition of communities, fisherfolk, environmentalists, and other advocates for the protection of the Verde Island Passage (VIP), on Wednesday, May 3 (UK time), joined Urgewald, Extinction Rebellion, and other cause-oriented groups in disrupting the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of Barclays and Standard Chartered in London due to the banks’ financing of major fossil fuel projects in the Verde Island Passage.

Barclays is a major financier of Shell’s USD 66 million liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal in Batangas, while Standard Chartered is a major financier of San Miguel Corporation (SMC), which is the biggest proponent of gas projects in the Philippines and Southeast Asia, and whose subsidiary chartered the ship which capsized and caused the oil spill now affecting VIP.

“Our paradise is in peril due to the unhampered financing that flows to new fossil fuel projects. In the Philippines, Standard Chartered is supporting San Miguel Corporation’s gas plant while Barclays is behind Shell – corporate giants that are out to destroy the Verde Island Passage. Local communities and fisherfolk worry that these projects will be at the expense of VIP’s richness and their own livelihoods. We will continue to resist these deadly projects and protect the Verde Island Passage,” said Fr. Edwin Gariguez, Protect VIP Convenor.

Avril de Torres, Deputy Executive Director of the sustainability think-tank Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development (CEED), a convenor of Protect VIP, was given the opportunity to ask a question during Standard Chartered’s AGM in which she raised the continued financing of SMC given the conglomerate’s difficulties in the energy sector of late.

“San Miguel Corporation is facing massive opposition, forced to withdraw three environmental permit applications and cancel two of its fossil fuel power supply agreements. It disclosed last year that it is losing billions of Philippine pesos because of its fossil fuel power plants. Fitch Group recently recommended a status of underperform to this corporation, concerned that it will be difficult for San Miguel to buy back bonds that it has issued. I want to ask Standard Chartered, what steps are you taking in the near future to assess the risks and divest and deny further debt and investment to very risky stranding fossil gas assets in emerging markets like the Philippines?” asked de Torres.

Standard Chartered claims to support the aspirations of the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to no more than 1.5°C and publicly committed to reaching net zero carbon emissions from their operations by 2025 and from their financing by 2050.

The participation of Protect VIP in the AGMs of the two banks is part of their tour of European banks responsible for financing gas projects in the Philippines and to demand they divest from these investments.

“We want to go to the homes of these multinational banks and make them see that their financing activities have consequences far beyond their dollar-filled spreadsheets. Their money allowed the climate emergency to happen, and their funding of gas projects in our country will have serious negative consequences for our future. The Philippines is not some slot machine that will cough up profits for them every time they insert investments into fossil fuel projects. Their activities make the present and future worse for real people,” said Gariguez.