Acceptance speech of Goldman awardee Fr. Edu Gariguez

 One person (Fr. Edu Gariguez) holding a trophy
Fr. Edu Gariguez holding his trophy from the Goldman Environmental Prize (photo from CBCP-NASSA)

I came from Mindoro island, one of the largest food producing provinces in the Philippines It is considered the seventh most important biodiversity hotspot in the world.

As a Catholic priest, it is my mission to serve the poor and the marginalized, that I dedicate myself to development work, and in promoting the rights of the indigenous peoples, the farmers and fisherfolk as well.

It is in pursuing this mission of being in solidarity with the poor that my involvement in ecological campaign has taken shape. Large-scale mining in the island of Mindoro threatens not only the fragile environment, but also the lives and livelihood of the poor and vulnerable.

I was taught by the Mangyan indigenous peoples to care for the earth. For them nature is likened to a womb that sustains us with life. One of these leaders is Badang, a Mangyan woman that went on hunger strike with me. She was ready to die to save the watershed threatened by mining. For her, once the forest is destroyed, we too will perish. She helped me understand that what is at stake in the campaign is the survival of our planet, of which we are merely a part.

Protecting the rights of the poor must take precedence over corporate greed. Genuine development must prioritize the need to ensure ecological sustainability over market profitability. We should never sacrifice people and the environment for short-term benefit of the few.

I also believe that in our effort to save our environment, we need to promote global solidarity.We have only one world to care for and to protect, and every small initiative matters.

I thank the Goldman Prize for this recognition and support for our advocacy to protect our island ecology. This award is an appreciation of the concerted campaign of the people of Mindoro, which I proudly represent. (Fr. Edwin Gariguez)