Japan seen obstructing energy transition in PH 

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Clean energy think-tank Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development (CEED) on Wednesday raised concern that the Japanese government is opting for energy partnership directions that obstruct rather than advance the Philippines’ shift to clean energy from renewables.

The comment came after government-owned Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) announced that it has signed a memorandum of agreement with San Miguel Corporation (SMC), Aboitiz Power Corporation, and Meralco parent company Metro Pacific Investment Corporation (MPIC) for the roll-out of the Japanese-led Asia Zero Emission Community (AZEC) platform in the Philippines.

“AZEC has been repeatedly denounced as a ploy to promote detrimental energy in developing countries in Asia, particularly with fossil gas and unproven fossil-friendly technologies. That critique is affirmed by JBIC’s partnership with the Philippines’ biggest fossil fuel champions. Japan, clearly, is championing the gas as ‘bridge fuel’ deception at the cost of the Philippines’ climate ambitions,” said Gerry Arances, Executive Director of CEED.

SMC, Aboitiz, and MPIC through Meralco’s power generation arm are jointly responsible for about 23 GW of new proposed gas-fired capacity – more than half of the current national pipeline and equal to over 80% of the Philippines’ currently installed capacity. The three companies are also reportedly in talks to acquire the Philippines’ first operational LNG import terminal owned by the Atlantic Gulf & Pacific Company, which was funded by JBIC and is currently undergoing an internal investigation by the bank for environmental violations and community impacts.

“With this development, the Japanese government and, by extension, the Philippine government are revealing a clear lack of commitment to a genuine renewable energy transition. This is unacceptable for a country facing some of the worst impacts of the intensifying climate crisis and where fossil fuel-based power generation is causing death and destruction in vulnerable communities. We are a country whose abundant renewable energy resources makes a 100% transition aligned to the 1.5 °C climate goal possible. The focus should be on unlocking this, and not in putting up more gas,” Arances said.

In the aftermath of this deal, clean energy advocates in Japan and the Philippines are on guard over outcomes of an upcoming trilateral between Japan, the Philippines, and the United States’ heads of government in Washington next week.

“LNG champions Japan and the US should use the upcoming talks to make amends and ensure the prioritization of renewables in the Philippines and other emerging economies in the region, not gas or false solutions. Meanwhile, this trilateral is also a test for the Marcos administration’s commitment to the Philippines’ renewable energy shift. President Marcos entered office with a pledge to make renewable energy its top climate priority, but its execution has so far been half-hearted,” Arances said. 

“The new MOU is quite concerning given their history of expanding fossil gas. JBIC is the biggest financier of fossil gas in Southeast Asia, providing 47% of total public finance to fossil gas in the region. Japan keeps saying that LNG is a necessary bridge fuel and Southeast Asia needs it. But this Japanese push for gas is all about Japanese corporate interest for keeping and selling its fossil fuel related infrastructure and technology. JBIC must stop fossil gas financing that has destroyed livelihoods and environment of local communities,” said Hiroki Osada, Development Finance and Environment Campaigner at Friends of the Earth – Japan.

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