The awardees pose for photographers.
QUEZON CITY - Six outstanding environmental advocates and groups confronting various environmental crises, especially the impacts of disasters and climate change, were given the Gawad Bayani ng Kalikasan (GBK) awards in a ceremony at the Convention Hall of the Bureau of Soil and Water Management in Quezon City.
The GBK honors the struggles and sacrifices of individuals and organizations who selflessly devoted their time and energy to the protection of the environment and to the assertion of people’s rights to benefit from a healthful ecology.
Now on its third year, the GBK recognized six individuals and organizations:
· Armin Marin, a town councilor, church leader and incorruptible environmental campaigner based in Sibuyan Island in Romblon Province, considered by some as ‘Asia’s Galapagos’ for its biodiversity and geographical uniqueness. Marin especially fought against consortiums of large-scale miners that aimed to exploit mineral resources in the island despite its being a protected area, and was killed in October 2007 with a fatal shot in a violent dispersal of a peaceful protest they staged against Sibuyan Nickel Properties Development Corporation. He only served as municipal councilor for three months.
· Wilhelmus Geertman, a Dutch missionary and executive director of the humanitarian organization Alay Bayan Inc. (ABI), dedicated 42 years of his life to activism in the Philippines until his murder in July 2012. From health and education, to community-based disaster management programs, Geertman and his colleagues rendered services that empowered local communities to rise up and help themselves. At the time of his death, Geertman was promoting the rights of peasants, workers, as well as campaigning against logging in Aurora province, large-scale mining operations and other environmentally destructive projects in the country.
· Rodne Galicha, a dedicated, vigilant guardian of the environment, a graduate of Philosophy and Arts Classical at the University of Santo Tomas and Central Seminary, also hails from the island of Sibuyan. Galicha is an active participant in environmental protection and conservation issues in his hometown, and was instrumental in the passage of a mining moratorium ordered by the governor of Romblon Province. Oftentimes invited as a speaker in international forums, Galicha was even trained as climate leader for Al Gore’s The Climate Reality Project serving also as its Philippines district manager. From 2009-2013, he worked for Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) with Philippine Partnership for the Development of Human Resources in Rural Areas (PhilDHRRA) Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center (LRC-KsK/FoE) and Haribon Foundation for the Conservation of Natural Resources. He is now presently working pro-bono for Sibuyan Island Sentinels League for Environment Inc. (Sibuyan ISLE) as Executive Director.
· The Kababaihang Nagtataglay ng Bihirang Lakas (KNBL) is a women’s group in Davao City, aspiring for food security and sovereignty through organic farming.. Beyond empowering others to engage in safe organic food production, KNBL was also successful in campaigning against corporate aerial spraying and field trials of the genetically modified BT eggplant. They also pushed for the passage of the Organic Agricultural Ordinance and its implementing rules together with other people’s organizations and NGOs in Davao.
· The Magsasaka at Siyentista para sa pag-unland ng Agrikultura (MASIPAG) is a farmer-led network of people’s organizations, non-government organizations and scientists that believes that agro-biodiversity is a vital resource in sustainable rural development and should be conserved and managed by farmers themselves. It has engaged in various multi-sectoral information and education initiatives, sustainable agriculture practices, lobbying from the local to national levels, and filing legal actions against genetically modified eggplant field testing.
· Awarded the most distinguished recognition in the 3rd GBK, the Kalumbay Regional Lumad Organization’s campaigns have fought against logging, mining and plantations and defended indigenous people’s rights in Northern Mindanao. In the process, their leaders’ lives have been sacrificed, among whom are Jimmy Liguyon and Datu Mampaagi Belayong, Their struggles thus centered on extractive industries encroachment on ancestral domains, including the call for justice for the violation of their rights to ancestral domain.
GBK Awards Committee was headed by Most Rev. Deogracias Ińiguez, Bishop-Emeritus of Caloocan and members of the Board of Judges included Bishop Ińiguez, Dr. Rene Rollon of University of the Philippine’s Institute of Environmental Science and Meteorology, Dr. Teresita Perez of Ateneo de Manila University’s Environmental Sciences Department, Dr. Helen Mendoza of the Philippine Network on Climate Change, and Dr. Joseph Carabeo of Alliance of Stewards for Authentic Progres.
The GBK is organized by the AGHAM-Advocates of Science and Technology for the People, Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, Center for Environmental Concerns – Philippines, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Ecowaste Coalition, Central Visayas Fisherfolk Development Center, Foundation for the Philippine Environment and Panalipdan! Mindanao.