MANILA, March 17, 2016— A Catholic priest, who has waged years’ of battle against a nickel mine in a call to protect Mindoro Island’s biodiversity and its indigenous people, received an “environmental hero” award Thursday.
Jesuit-run Xavier University bestowed a Doctor in Humanities, honoris causa, on Fr. Edwin Gariguez for his sustained and significant efforts to protect the environment and indigenous peoples.
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 vocation you have patiently and perseveringly pursued in the peripheries has truly been serving the faith that does justice and ecological stewardship,” Yap said in his letter to Gariguez.
According to Yap, the Caritas official, who is also a native of Mindoro, is a “true activist and scholar” for the IPs and the environment.
Gariguez, executive secretary of Caritas Philippines, received the award during the university’s graduation ceremony in Cagayan de Oro City on March 17, where he also delivered the keynote address.
This is not the first time the priest has been recognized for championing the causes of the indigenous communities and the environment.
In 2012, he was a recipient of of the Goldman Environmental Prize, the world’s largest award for grassroots environmental activists.
Gariguez became a prominent figure against mining in the country when he led an 11-day hunger strike with some Mangyans and activists to stop operations of the Norwegian mining company Intex in 2009.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources then indefinitely revoked Intex’s permit and stopped mining operations.
In 2015, however, the DENR reinstated the environmental compliance certificate for Intex to mine ore in Mindoro after six years of suspension. (READ: Gov’t ‘sellout’ seen in favoring Mindoro mining firm)
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. (READ: Mindoro folk seeks bishops’ support against Intex mining)