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Filipino advocate wins global environment rights award

KORONADAL CITY (UCAN): Rene Pamplona, a former Church worker and advocate from province of South Cotabato in Mindanao, the Philippines, is the recipient of this year’s Alexander Soros Foundation Award for Environmental and Human Rights Activism.
Pamplona garnered the award for his years of work with tribal communities opposing large-scale mining operations, said he was “surprised and humbled by the recognition. The award is a validation of the issues that we’ve been fighting for on the ground for a long time.” 
Before setting up the Convergence of Initiatives for Environmental Justice, the 49-year-old Pamplona worked for the Social Action Centre of the Diocese of Marbel.
“Winning the (award) is not just recognition of my activism, it is recognition of the work of all defenders,” Pamplona said. 
The father of seven children said his work in tribal communities brought many incidents of harassment and even direct threats to his life.
According to the latest Global Witness report, the Philippines is the most dangerous country in Asia for land and environmental defenders, with at least 48 advocates killed in 2017.
The announcement of the award coincided with the first anniversary of the killing of eight tribal people in South Cotabato who opposed the development of a coffee plantation on their ancestral land.
The massacre resulted in the displacement of at least 200 tribal people who left their homes for fear of more attacks.
In a statement, the Alexander Soros Foundation said Pamplona has been chosen for his “tireless effort to seek justice for indigenous communities fighting to protect their land from large-scale mining, coal fired power plants, and agribusiness projects.”
The foundation said Pamplona’s recognition and the telling of his story “is a beacon of hope not only for him but for all those standing up for the indigenous peoples of the Philippines.”

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