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Thursday, September 2, 2010

The 53rd Ramon Magsaysay Awards 2010

            The Ramon Magsaysay Awards on its 53rd year conferred the honorees last August 31, 2010 held at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. Highly regarded as the Nobel Prize of Asia, the Ramon Magsaysay awards bestowed honors on exemplary Asians whose extraordinary public service works beyond compare inspire and lead others. It was founded to celebrate the leadership example of the country’s third president of the third republic.
        Magsaysay Foundation president Carmencita Abella said this year’s seven awardees are “remarkable individuals deeply engaged in reinventing the future for a better Asia, tapping into and strengthening the power of community. Their concerns are clearly quite diverse… but there is one thing this year’s Magsaysay laureates share: a greatness of spirit which infuses their leadership for change. They all build up collaboration and seek consensus whenever possible. They all refuse to give up, despite adversity and opposition.”
        This year’s awardees includes Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba of Japan who campaign for nuclear disarmament around the world, Chinese newspaper photographer Huo Daishan, Chinese government officials Pan Yue and Fu Qiping, social worker A.H.M. Noman Khan of Bangladesh and physicist couple Christopher Bernido and Ma. Victoria Carpio-Bernido of the Philippines.

Christopher Bernido and Ma. Victoria Carpio-Bernido, Philippines


The foundation recognizes “ their purposeful commitment to both science and nation, ensuring innovative, low-cost, and effective basic education even under Philippine conditions of great scarcity and daunting poverty.”

        Both coming from the affluent families, the Bernidos completed their doctorate degrees in physics from the State University of New York. In the 1980s, they headed the National Institute of Physics at the University of the Philippines, where they were also recognized for excellence in teaching and research. In 1999, the couple relocated to a small town of Jagna in Bohol, a Central Visayas province to run the crumbling Central Visayan Institute Foundation (CVIF) owned by Christopher’s aging mother. The couple thought it more practical to shut down the school but they also saw the opportunity to come to terms with the problems of basic education in the country. In Jagna, the Bernidos continue to hold regular workshops with the country’s top physics teachers, foreign scientists, even Nobel laureates as guest lecturers. They also continue to mentor young scientists from various Philippine universities.

Huo Daishan, China


The foundation recognizes “his selfless and unrelenting efforts, despite formidable odds, to save China’s great river Huai and the numerous communities who draw life from it.”

      Newspaper photographer Huo Daishan from Shenqiu in China’s Henan province was cited for his documentation of pollution and marine life kill in the Hua River, the third largest in China. In 2001, Huo staged his first photo exhibit by stringing together on a clothesline more than 15,000 photographs taken with a cheap camera. He eventually held 70 exhibits in various cities. Photographs showing the river covered in noxious foam, and village children wearing gas masks stirred public debate. Although harassed by local officials and factory owners, he succeeded in linking up with local authorities and industries to install water wells and low-cost water filters in the affected villages near the river.

Tadatoshi Akiba, Japan


The foundation recognizes “his principled and determined leadership in a sustained global campaign to mobilize citizens, pressure governments, and build the political will to create a world free from the perils of nuclear war.”

       Tadatoshi Akiba is a three-term mayor of Hiroshima who spearheaded “Mayors for Peace,” a global campaign for nuclear disarmament supported by 4,000 cities in 144 countries. The campaign includes educational events, anti-nuclear demonstrations, active participation in the review conferences of United Nations Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and aggressive lobbying with governments and international agencies for nuclear disarmament. Tadatoshi was three years old when a single American atomic bomb leveled the city of Hiroshima. In his desire to keep the memory alive, he started a travel grants program through which visiting journalists can interview bomb survivors. Tadatoshi recognized that his city had the moral obligation to warn the world of nuclear danger.

Pan Yue and Fu Qiping, China


The foundation recognizes “their exemplary vision and zeal, as public servants at two levels of the state bureaucracy, in advocating the inseparability of development and the environment in uplifting the lives of the Chinese people.”

Pan Yue – “for his pursuit of a national environmental program, insisting on state and private accountability, encouraging state-citizen dialogue, and raising the environment as an issue of urgent national concern.”

Fu Qiping – “for his enterprising leadership and undeniable success in demonstrating how village-level economic development can be achieved without damage to the environment.”

        Chinese government officials, Pan Yue (vice minister at the Ministry of Environmental Protection) and Fu Qiping (chief of Tengtou village in Zheijiang province) were cited for creating opportunities to address China’s environmental crisis. As vice minister of the environmental protection agency, Pan has actively implemented the Environmental Assessment Law of 2003 and the Open Government Information Regulations of 2007. In 2005, he either warned or shut down 76 energy-generating projects worth billions of dollars for non-compliance with environmental regulations. Fu, on the other hand, is a farmer who has been a village chief since 1980, had used China’s decentralized system to turn Tengtou into one of China’s most prosperous villages by practicing environment-friendly agriculture and using renewable energy. The village of only 830 inhabitants has a waste-water treatment system and solar-powered streetlights.

A.H.M. Noman Khan, Bangladesh


The foundation recognizes “his pioneering leadership in mainstreaming persons with disabilities in the development process of Bangladesh, and in working vigorously with all sectors to build a society that is truly inclusive and barrier-free.”

       Social worker A.H.M. Noman Khan from Bangladesh, meanwhile, was cited for setting up a training center for helping persons with disabilities by giving them skills and employment opportunities.

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