BY parking funds in a project by the Atlantic Gulf & Pacific Co. (AG&P), the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) earned the ire of organizations seeking the protection of the Verde Island Passage, “a channel that cuts through the Philippines by the south of Luzon, right in the center of the Coral Triangle.”
This was what members of the Bukluran ng Mangingisda ng Batangas (bond of Batangas fishermen) and Protect VIP organizations expressed on Monday when it filed a complaint at the JBIC Manila office.
A statement issued by the groups said their complaint centered on the actions of the JBIC as it made a $100-million investment in AG&P, along with Osaka Gas Co. Ltd. The groups said such investment violates Philippine laws and the investment rules of JBIC.
The organizations explained that AG&P local unit Linseed Field Power Corp. is building a liquefied natural gas (LNG) import terminal in Batangas City, which is the subject of five complaints from Protect VIP due to permit violations related to the cutting of coconut trees, land conversion and environmental compliance. Local fishers are opposed to the terminal project due to fears of a spill, like what occurred after the sinking of MT Princess Empress, from LNG carriers. They also cite the threat posed by the gas project to the biodiversity and productivity of the VIP.
“JBIC has rules concerning the sustainability of its investments, rules which they imposed on themselves but which they violate with their continued investment in AG&P. JBIC’s continued fossil fuel lending is not aligned with the 1.5 °C target to mitigate the impacts of climate change. In fact, JBIC’s actions are indicative of Japan’s status as one of the world’s biggest fossil fuel lenders. As a major player in the international financial landscape, Japan has the opportunity to lead by example in transitioning towards a more sustainable and climate-friendly future, but they choose to prioritize profit over ethical and environmental responsibilities,” Protect VIP Co-convenor Gerry C. Arances was quoted in the statement as saying.
The filing was joined by members of Protect VIP, who dressed up in iconic Japanese anime characters and carried banners saying “Gas is not ‘kawaii,’” (a word used among Japanese youth for cute).
“There is nothing cute about violating the law, which is what Linseed is doing and JBIC tolerates it. Our letter tells JBIC that they have failed to monitor the compliance of Linseed with local laws, that they failed to properly classify the environmental sensitivity of the project under its own regulations, and that they failed to take action as demanded by their own guidelines. As a reputable international financial institution, this lapse in transparency and accountability is concerning. We urge JBIC to be held accountable for their legal shortcomings and to ultimately withdraw from fossil fuel funding which significantly sets us back to reach our climate imperatives,” added Arances, also the executive director of think-tank Center for Energy, Ecology and Development (CEED) in the Philippines. The Protect VIP organization expressed concern that the continued support of JBIC for Linseed “will encourage the company to circumvent more local environmental regulations in its construction and operations.”
“The oil spill that devastated Oriental Mindoro shows that the lack of respect for laws can have serious consequences for the environment and the people in the area. LNG is a dangerous cargo that will now have to travel through VIP, disrupting the local way of life and livelihood of locals, while posing a threat to the environment. We are urging JBIC to obey their own environmental guidelines and cease funding Linseed,” Protect VIP Convenor and Catholic priest Edwin Gariguez was also quoted in the statement as saying.
Local fisherfolk echoed the concern of Gariguez, adding that the presence of so many gas projects in VIP will further affect their livelihood, already severely impacted by the MT Princess Empress oil spill.
“Nakakabahala ang magiging epekto ng mga terminal at planta ng gas na tinatayo sa paligid ng VIP. Ngayon pa lang, nahihirapan nang makabangon ang mga mangingisda mula sa epekto ng oil spill, tapos ay dadagdagan pa ang peligro na ito mula sa mga malalaking barko na magdadala ng LNG sa mga terminal. Nakikiusap kami na sa pamumuhunan ng JBIC, isaalang-alang din nila ang kabuhayan na maaring masira dahil sa mga kumpanyang sinusuportahan nila,” said Wilma Gregorio of the Bukluran ng Mangingisda sa Batangas.[The impact of the gas terminals and plants being built around VIP is worrisome. Already, fishermen are struggling to recover from the effects of the oil spill, and this risk will be compounded by the large ships that will bring LNG to the terminals. We implore that in JBIC’s investment, they also consider the livelihoods that may be destroyed because of the companies they support.]