Duterte urged to prioritize climate change action

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Exactly a year after Pope Francis released his encyclical on the environment, local bishops are urging the incoming administration for stricter laws on mining and energy production to help combat climate change.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) called on incoming President Rodrigo Duterte to prioritize efforts to combat climate change.

In a press conference Saturday to celebrate the anniversary of Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment, local bishops urged Duterte to review the country's energy policy, especially the existing contracts of mining and coal plants.

Sabi nga niya ay change is coming so isa sa bahagi ng pagbabago ay itong sa policy on climate,” said Edwin Gariguez, executive secretary of Caritas Philippines, CBCP’s social action arm.

[Translation: “As he said, change is coming and one of those changes is the policy on climate.”]

CBCP also deplored the expected construction of 39 coal-fired power plants by 2020. So far, 19 plants are operating.

"We remain hopeful policy changes will be done on the issue of extractive industries – energy, forestry, land use, and the like,” Dexter Toledo, head of the Ecological Justice Interfaith Movement said.

Related: Catholic bishops hopeful relationship with Duterte will improve

The clergy is urging the incoming government to gradually switch to renewable energy.

They believe this is essential for the Philippines to fulfill its promise of cutting carbon emissions by 70 percent by 2030.

"Mahalaga ito dahil ang nakakapagpabigat ng problema sa global warming ay ang mga coal mining at coal-fired power plants,” Gariguez said.

[Translation: “This (renewable energy) is important because what aggravates the problem of global warming are coal mining and coal-fired power plants.”]

He also called on the justice department to prosecute businesses and companies that pollute the environment.

Pope Francis last year warned of irreparable risks to the planet caused by humans’ activities – including technology and the use of fossil fuels – in his 184-page encyclical “Laudato Si” subtitled “On Care for Our Common Home.”

Related: Pope: We cannot separate ourselves from the environment

Back in the campaign, Duterte said the country's economy might still need new coal-fired power plants.

He also called the developed nations "hypocritical" for asking developing nations like the Philippines to slash carbon emissions.

Also read: Duterte calls the United Nations ‘hypocrites’

Also read: Ask presidential candidates about their climate change plans — Oxfam