MANILA — The coronavirus pandemic has stalled the selection of recipients of this year's Ramon Magsaysay Award, widely considered as Asia's version of the Nobel Prize, its organizers said Wednesday.
Travel restrictions aimed at containing cases of the respiratory disease prevented the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation from validating the work and record of nominees, the foundation's communications officer Apple Deferia told ABS-CBN News.
The foundation's board of trustees said in a statement that it "had no choice but to cancel this year's awards" with the pandemic "practically immobilizing the world."
Since it was established in 1957, the Ramon Magsaysay Awards had only been disrupted in 2 previous instances: the 1970 financial crisis and the 1990 earthquake in Luzon, said the board.
"It was a tough decision to make. We shall all miss the solemnity of the awards night. Hungry for the stories that inspire and sustain hope. Feeling humbled in the presence of the light," read the statement.
"Today, tradition has to give way to inconvenient reality. But we will get together again and it will be a joyful reunion."
But "amid the uncertainty and despair caused by COVID-19, Ramon Magsaysay Awardees from all corners of Asia have risen to the occasion, lending critical support to frontliners and marginalized victims of the pandemic," the foundation's board said.
"It is this continuing story of compassion and service that defines the Laureates."
The Ramon Magsaysay Award has been bestowed to over 300 individuals and organizations "whose selfless service has offered their societies, Asia, and the world successful solutions to some of the most intractable problems of human development," according to the RMAF website.
The awardees include, among others, the late Mother Teresa, the late Philippine Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, the late Japan's Sadako Ogata who became United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and former president of the Japan International Cooperation Agency, and Singapore's Tony Tay who shared food to the needy through his "Willing Hearts" nonprofit organization.
The award is presented yearly in Manila on August 31, the birth anniversary of the the late Philippine president Ramon Magsaysay, whose leadership and values inspired the prize. Magsaysay died in a plane crash in 1957.