Eco-Business scores two finalist nods for editorial excellence at annual SOPA awards

Its special report on the impacts of nickel mining in Southeast Asia is in the running for the Excellence in Explanatory Reporting award.

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Young students of a school in Bataraza, a coastal municipality in the island province of Palawan, crowd around executive producer Firdaus Firlany, who is seen in the picture using a drone controller to capture aerial shots of the school building. The Eco-Business team was in Palawan in October 2022 to observe and report on mining activities for its special report on energy transition metals. Image: Hannah Alcoseba Fernandez / Eco-Business

Eco-Business has earned two finalist spots in the Society for Publishers of Asia (SOPA) 2023 Awards for its coverage of the controversy surrounding sand extraction in Singapore and the environmental problems associated with mining in the Philippines and Southeast Asia. 

SOPA, founded in Hong Kong in 1982, gives out the yearly awards to reward good journalism. The awards, open to entry nominations from global and regional outlets, attracts submissions from the world’s largest media publications. 

More than 90 awards are given out each year in an array of categories, which are periodically reviewed to keep pace with the ever-evolving ways that journalism is delivered to consumers, said SOPA on its website.

One category that was added last year was the Excellence in Audio Reporting award. Eco-Business’ podcast on sand extraction in Singapore saw the sustainability media organisation being recognised under the Regional/Local subcategory. 

In the podcast, former Eco-Business correspondent Sonia Sambhi, speaks to Madhumitha Ardhanari, principal sustainability strategist at Forum for the Future, a sustainability non-profit, to understand how the invisibility of sand contributes to its secrecy in Singapore, the world’s biggest sand importer. 

The dredging of sand and its corresponding negative impacts often happen outside of Singapore, in source countries such as Malaysia, Vietnam, and Indonesia.

The duo discussed how land reclaimation became a huge part of Singapore’s growth story and the narratives that surround sand in Singapore, including how growth is often taken for granted in the city state.

Meanwhile, a special report on mining and energy transition metals saw Eco-Business landing another finalist spot in the Excellence in Explanatory Reporting category under the Regional/Local subcategory. 

The category honours work that demonstrates high standards of reporting, writing and in-depth analysis to explain a topic of significance.

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Philippines’ chief correspondent Hannah Alcoseba Fernandez (left) speaks to officials from Rio Tuba Mining Corp as they showcase reforestation efforts within a rehabilitated mine site. Image: Firdaus Firlany / Eco-Business

For the report, Eco-Business chief correspondent of the Philippines Hannah Alcoseba Fernandez, who is based in Manila, and executive producer Firdaus Firlany, travelled to Palawan province to interview local communities affected by the activities in nearby mining sites, and captured aerial drone shots of the mines. Regional correspondent Liang Lei and assistant editor Ng Wai Mun took a closer look at how the search for energy transition metals across Southeast Asia has led to tensions and examine if equitable benefits are possible in the pursuit. 

The report, titled “New mines, old problems”, also includes original explanatory graphics by graphic designer Philip Amiote. 

The Philippines has the world’s fifth-largest reserve of nickel, one of the mineral commodities in hot demand to manufacture clean energy hardware. Countries and corporations worldwide are laying claim to these minerals with increasing zeal, as demand outstrips supply. 

Governance risks in Southeast Asian countries, such as lax enforcement and a paucity of mining safeguards, exacerbate these environmental problems and continue to sully Southeast Asia’s poor track record of human rights protection. 

Other environmental pieces that made the shortlist for the SOPA 2023 Awards include Bloomberg’s feature story on Big Plastic’s faltering $1.5 billion global cleanup effort, and the Washington’s Post’s article on how the livelihoods of Vietnamese communities are affected as Chinese dams upstream deprive the Mekong River Delta of sediment. Regional outlets who scored finalist nods include Malaysiakini, Rappler and Frontier Myanmar. 

The winners, who will be chosen from the list of finalists, will be announced at an awards ceremony later this year. 

Read the special report to understand the environmental and social impacts of mining in Southeast Asia. For more of Eco-Business podcasts, click here or subscribe to our weekly newsletter for latest updates. 


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