Bringing environmental advocacy to Philippine airwaves

Radio allows church views on environment to reach wider audience, Father Alex Galo says
Bringing environmental advocacy to Philippine airwaves

Father Alex Galo hosts the pro-environment radio program "Kalibungan, Kinabuhi, Kamurayaw (Environment, Life, Peace)" in Eastern Samar province. (Photo by Elmer Recuerdo)

The voice of Father Alex Galo reverberates across the central Philippine province of Eastern Samar for three hours every Tuesday and Thursday.

People don't know his face, may not even recall his name, but the priest's voice and his call for the protection of the environment is heard even in far-flung villages.

"I listen to his program when the radio picks up the signal," said a driver of a passenger van plying from Tacloban to the town of Guiuan. Typhoon Haiyan devastated both places in 2013.

The driver said mining issues are "very important" to him.

"My brother’s farm on Homonhon Island was destroyed to make way for a mining operation. Now he works as a laborer in the city, having left his family behind," he said.

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The radio program Kalibungan, Kinabuhi, Kamurayaw (Environment, Life, Peace) has aired from 7 to 10 o'clock in the morning from the town of Salcedo since 2013.

It is a project of the social action office of Borongan Diocese.

"The church is aware how mining destroys the environment," Father Galo told ucanews.com. "We know the effects of climate change, floods, and the destruction of the forests," he said.

The priest said the radio program aims to bring the church’s stand against mining to a wider audience.

"We cannot limit our advocacy within our parish where we only reach a few people. With the radio, we are able to bring the message to a wider audience," he said.

He said Pope Francis' encyclical Laudato si', which was published in May last year, encouraged the diocese to continue with the project.

The radio program can be heard in 12 towns in Eastern Samar province and reaches over 15,000 households.

"It may not have the influence of television or the internet, but it has a wider reach," said Father Galo.

The priest has been getting a lot of feedback from listeners.

"We receive many text messages and calls from people who want to express their opinion," he said.

The radio program provides a platform for anti-mining advocates who give updates about people's actions against the operations of mining companies.

"It gives us an opportunity to inform people about the ill-effects of mining," said Nancy Badilla, one of the leaders of the group Progressive Manicani Island Society, which continues to hold a picket against a mining company on the island trying to remove a stockpile of nickel.

She said the priest's radio program gives people a way to speak to authorities who would usually refuse to meet with protesters when they seek a meeting.

Father Galo is not new to broadcasting. In the 1980s he used to have a radio show where he aired his reflections on the day's Gospel.

At the height of an anti-mining campaign in the province in the 1990s, the priest was a constant in various radio programs where he would explain the church's stand on the care for the earth.

"I see the problem right in front of me and it compels me to speak out to defend our environment," he said.

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