Priest -turned activist wins award for environmental work
By Ted Alcuitas
Long before Laudato Si, Pope Francis’ encyclical on The Care of Creation and the Climate Change movement, an obscure priest from the island of Mindoro in the southern Philippines was waging his own battle against environmental degradation.
Fr. Edwin ‘Edu’ Gariguez received an “environmental hero” award from the Jesuit-run Xavier University for his sustained and significant efforts to protect the environment and indigenous peoples.
Gariguez has been in Canada twice as the solidarity visitor for Development & Peace – Caritas Canada. He was in the Atlantic in 2012 and the west coast in 2015.
Gariguez, now executive secretary of Caritas-Philippines, became a prominent figure against mining in the country when he led an 11-day hunger strike to stop operations of the Norwegian mining company Intex in 2009.
His battle to preserve the culture of the Mangyan tribe – the indigenous people of Mindoro, won him the Goldman Environmental Prize, the world’s largest award for grassroots environmental activists in 2012.
But it also endangered his life when he was put in the ‘hit list’ by the notorious Gen. Jovito Palparan, the so-called ‘butcher’ of the Philippine military now facing criminal charges for murder. Gariguez had to flee the island and transfer to Manila.
Fr. Roberto Yap, university president, said Gariguez’s ministry is an inspiring response to Pope Francis challenge “to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.” The award, a Doctor in Humanities honoris causa , was given at convocation ceremonies March 17 in Cagayan de Oro City.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources indefinitely revoked Intex’s permit and stopped mining operations after Gariguez’s campaign.
But in 2015 however, the DENR reinstated the environmental compliance certificate for Intex to mine ore in Mindoro after six years of suspension.
Jaybee Garganera, national coordinator of Alyansa Tigil Mina, said a 25-year moratorium against large-scale mining issued by the provincial government of Oriental Mindoro in 2010 is stalling Intex’s operations.
“They can’t explore because there is a need to secure an endorsement from the local and provincial governments,” Garganera said.
And even with the ECC, he said the mining firm still needs to negotiate with the Mangyans and other stakeholders to get consent.
Calapan Bishop Warlito Cajandig has vowed to oppose the ECC for Intex and called on the faithful to keep their vigilance against attempts by Intex to operate again in their province.