Fr. Edwin Gariguez,a winner of the Goldman Environmental Prize 2012

Our very own Fr. Edwin Gariguez, executive secretary of the National Secretariat for Social Action-Justice and Peace (NASSA is Caritas Philippines) and a prominent activist against mining in his country, has been awarded the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize.

Fr. Edu, as he is affectionately called by most who know him, said, “The honour is not only for me but for us in the Church and our contribution to protect the fragile ecology and to pursue the campaign for justice and rights of the poor and the marginalised.”

He was one of six “environmental heroes” selected from the six inhabited continental regions.

The prize, announced each year in April to coincide with Earth Day, recognises individuals for “sustained and significant  efforts to protect and enhance the natural environment, often at great personal risk.”

Each winner receives an award of $150,000, the largest award in the world for grassroots environmentalists.

Fr. Edu and his organization are best known for conducting an 11-day hunger strike in 2009 in which they demanded an end to the nickel-mining project.

According to the Goldman Prize citation, the government “finally agreed to conduct an investigation into the mine’s environmental and social violations.” Ultimately, government officials suspended the mine’s environmental compliance certificate.

“We are very happy that he got that significant international prize,” said Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo of Manila, Gariguez’s bishops’ commission chairman.

Bishop Pabillo said the award shows the group’s “recognition of what we are doing in Mindoro, protecting the indigenous people and protecting the environment especially against large-scale mining.”

“We hope that this can be a big sign for people that there are others outside the Philippines who appreciate what we are doing to preserve the environment,” the bishop.