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Filipino archbishop honored as 'hero of the environment'

Activist groups bestow Gawad Bayani ng Kalikasan award on Archbishop Sergio Utleg for anti-mining crusade

Mark Saludes, Manila

Mark Saludes, Manila

Updated: March 19, 2018 04:47 AM GMT
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Filipino archbishop honored as 'hero of the environment'

Archbishop Sergio Utleg of Tuguegarao leads a prayer during a visit to a tribal community in the province of Cagayan Valley. (Photo by Divine Nobis)


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A Catholic archbishop in the Philippines has been named a "hero for the environment" for his strong advocacy against mining, especially in the northern part of the country.

The Gawad Bayani ng Kalikasan award was given to Archbishop Sergio Utleg of Tuguegarao for his "exemplary deeds and initiatives" to advance environmental protection.

The award is given to those who "serve as an example" in protecting the environment by activist groups led by the Center for Environmental Concerns.

"We honor the efforts of extraordinary environmental defenders who are fighting through various forms and capacities," said Owen Migraso, executive director of the organization.

The award recognized Archbishop Utleg's "passion, commitment, and integrity" to carry on his advocacy for the environment "amidst life-threatening circumstances."

"He is recognized for being a rock and foundation of pro-environment movements that successfully closed down illegal mining operations," said Migraso.

In a message read during the awarding ceremony, Archbishop Utleg said he was "sharing this award with all the people who stand for the protection of all creation, the promotion of human rights and the dignity of life."

Danggayan, an activist group in Cagayan nominated Archbishop Utleg for the award. "He is not just a good shepherd but also a fierce environment defender," said Isabelo Adviento, the group's leader.

Because of his advocacy, Archbishop Utleg has become the target of threats and intimidation. Last year, he was accused of being a communist rebel supporter.

The prelate, who became Archbishop of Tuguegarao in 2011, led opposition against four magnetite-mining operations in Cagayan Valley province.

In 2013, the archbishop championed a petition urging the government to revoke all permits allowing black sand mining in the country.

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