Climate and environmental advocates and community stakeholders on November 8 raised alarm over a new gas project set to be built by Shell in Batangas province in the Philippines, which places in peril the already elusive 1.5°C climate target and a biodiversity hotspot known as the Verde Island Passage (VIP).
Led by Protect Verde Island Passage (Protect VIP), the groups submitted a letter signed by over 90 civil society and people’s organizations and institutional representatives across the Philippines and the globe protesting the plans of Shell, through Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corporation, to build the ₱3.5 billion (US$66 million) liquefied natural gas (LNG) import terminal. The letter was submitted to Shell’s headquarters alongside protest actions in Manila, Batangas, and London.
Goldman Prize Awardee Fr. Edwin Gariguez, lead convenor of Protect VIP, said: “Humanity is supposed to be the steward of God’s creation. However, due to greed, some of these supposed stewards engage in reckless behavior in the pursuit of profit, despite the danger posed to the environment and the misery they bring to their fellow human beings in the form of health and environmental hazards, threats to their livelihood, and catastrophic climate disasters.
“Today, we’re letting Shell know that it simply is not welcome in the Verde Island Passage.”
Once operational, the LNG terminal would cause serious disruption in the area, with fishing and other activities curtailed by exclusion zones, risk of leaks, and increased maritime traffic, in addition to the climate repercussions of the use of LNG for power generation in the country.
Philippine groups and supporting organizations also made outrage over Shell’s gas plans felt at the ongoing COP 27 on the anniversary of Typhoon Haiyan, one of the deadliest storms in recent history.
Youth climate activist Krishna Ariola, co-founder of Youth for Climate Hope (Y4CH), said: “For Filipinos, the onslaught of another Haiyan is always a possibility. Shell’s LNG project is an attack on the future of the youth. The continued proliferation of fossil fuel projects such as this is a roadblock to the focus on achieving the 1.5°C target to minimize the effects of climate change.
“Shell may claim to protect biodiversity, or to promote sustainability, but its history in Nigeria and elsewhere say otherwise. We want to have a future, and we want it without Shell.”
Shell Philippines previously secured an Environment Compliance Certificate (ECC) from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for the same project in 2013, but pulled the brakes on its development due to unfavorable market conditions at the time. For the groups, the current energy crisis from global fossil fuel dependence makes for an even less appealing moment to be pursuing the LNG project.
Gerry Arances, Executive Director of think-tank Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development (CEED) and co-convenor of Protect VIP, said: “It makes no sense for Shell to still insist on gas. I cannot imagine a more unfavorable market condition than the sky-high energy prices we are experiencing right now across the world.
“Unless of course the idea is precisely to profit off the suffering of Filipino consumers who now see the true value of their earnings reduced by rampant inflation and high electricity bills due to the use of fossil fuels.”
Shell has been under fire for years as one of the carbon majors linked to 71% of industrial greenhouse gas emissions since 1988, and has been mandated since 2021 by the court of Netherlands to cut down its emissions by 45% from 2019 levels by 2030.
A first of its kind climate investigation by the Philippines’ own Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has also revealed that there are legal grounds to hold carbon majors like Shell accountable for bringing about climate disasters.
Joanna Warrington of Fossil Free London, who protested in London outside the Shell international HQ, said: “Shame on Shell for forcing more gas on a climate-vulnerable country. As if it hasn’t already done far too much damage to the climate and communities across the globe, it is now also setting its sights on the Verde Island Passage as a new target to destroy.
“If we are to have a still livable climate and habitable marine environments, Shell’s fossil fuel plans must go – out of the VIP and everywhere else.”
Just over a week before the start of COP 27, another super typhoon hit the Philippines. Over a hundred and fifty deaths have been confirmed with the onslaught of Typhoon Nalgae, which also displaced hundreds of thousands across every major island region in the country.
Yeb Sano, Executive Director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia and head of the Greenpeace delegation at COP27, said: “Every typhoon that barrels through the Philippines is tainted by the carbon emissions of Shell and other polluters who have changed our climate for the worse.
“In turning the Verde Island Passage into another fossil battleground, Shell only adds to the many climate transgressions that the collective power of communities and people’s movements will hold it accountable for.”
All photos credit: Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development. Fossil Free London stage a protest in front of the Shell Headquarters in London.