Philippine priest wins environmental prize

Fr. Edwin Gariguez

Fr. Edwin Gariguez

April 30, 2012

Father Edwin Gariguez thought it was a joke when he received the call from the office of the Goldman Environmental Prize that he was one of six international winners of a $150,000 award.

"My first question was, 'Is this really real?'" he said with a laugh.

Gariguez has spent a dozen years working to prevent a 24,000-acre nickel mining operation from starting up in the Philippine island of Mindoro, about 160 km south of Manila.

Starting in the late '90s, Gariguez led protests by Mindoro's indigenous people, environmentalists, Church organizations – Catholic and Protestant – local officials and numerous other activist groups.

Their argument: Mining waste would pollute the abundant sea and endanger a watershed, both of which are crucial to this island, one of the country's top producers of fruits and vegetables.

They saw the project of Norway-based Intex Mining and its local partners as a serious threat to the environment, their livelihoods and their way of life.