LENDING & CREDIT | Staff Reporter, Philippines

Philippine bank RCBC to stop financing coal plants

It is the fourth ASEAN bank that has announced plans to do so.

Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC), one of the largest banks in the Philippines, has announced that it will no longer finance coal plants—becoming just the fourth bank in Southeast Asia to exit coal financing.

“[N]o more coal. I’ll say that slowly: no more coal,” the bank’s president and CEO, Eugene Acevedo, said a virtual banking forum on 10 December.

Also Read: ASEAN banks' sustainable performance remains wanting: WWF

The Philippine Movement for Climate Justice called the move “a radical departure for one of the leading financiers of a recent coal boom in the Philippines, an island nation that is extremely vulnerable to climate change.”

The announcement came just a month after the country’s energy department proclaimed that it will issue a moratorium on new coal-fired power plants. However, the moratorium does not apply to around 22 proposed plants that have already been approved to be built.

“This announcement, coupled with the Department of Energy’s coal moratorium, heralds the end of coal in the Philippines,” said Aaron Pedrosa, co-chair of the Energy Working Group of Philippine Movement for Climate Justice. “Big commercial banks like RCBC that have been aggressively funding coal projects have been recalcitrant in accepting the reality that their coal investments are quickly being reduced to stranded assets. This will bleed them billions, which could have been best invested in renewables.”

RCBC has reportedly financed at least 19 new and expanded coal plants in the Philippines in the past decade, according to an investigation by Inclusive Development International.

The bank participated in $13.3b worth of coal financing after becoming an equity client of the International Finance Corporation despite the IFC’s 2013 pledge to stop funding coal.

The bank joins a growing list of financial institutions that have pledged to exit coal and align themselves with the Paris Agreement. But banks in Asia have been slow to adopt such policies, despite the region accounting for the lion’s share of coal plants under development.

Also Read: Sustainability takes centre stage in ASEAN corporate banking

In ASEAN, only three other banks—Singapore’s big three giants DBS, OCBC, and UOB, which are also Southeast Asia’s biggest banks by assets in that order—have announced that they have prohibited the financing of new coal-fired power plants.

Earlier this year, Ayala Corporation, a major developer of coal plants in the Philippines and a recipient of RCBC financing, also said that it would divest from coal by 2030, PMCJ noted in a press release.

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