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Filipino archbishop honoured for environmental advocacy

MANILA (UCAN): Archbishop Sergio Utleg of Tuguegarao, the Philippines, has been given the Gawad Bayani ng Kalikasan (hero for the environment) award for his “exemplary deeds and initiatives” to advance environmental protection and his strong advocacy against mining, especially in the northern part of the country.
The award is given to those who “serve as an example” in protecting the environment by advocacy groups led by the Centre for Environmental Concerns.
“We honour the efforts of extraordinary environmental defenders who are fighting through various forms and capacities,” Owen Migraso, the executive director of the organisation, said.
Archbishop Utleg was recognised for his “passion, commitment, and integrity” to carry on his advocacy for the environment “amidst life-threatening circumstances.”
Migraso said, “He is recognised for being a rock and foundation of pro-environment movements that successfully closed down illegal mining operations.” 
In a message during the award 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 advocacy group in Cagayan, nominated Archbishop Utleg for the award. “He is not just a good shepherd but also a fierce environment defender,” the group’s leader Isabelo Adviento, said.
Due 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 bishop, who became archbishop of Tuguegarao in 2011, led opposition against four magnetite-mining operations in the northern Cagayan Valley.
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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