Pioneering social equity, environmental justice with Paolo Domondon 

Paolo Domondon started a life in activism at a young age. Decades later, he remains steadfast in tackling problems related to climate change and social unrest.

As the 2030 deadline for the Sustainable Development Goal draws near, global progress on achieving them has waned, especially for socioeconomic and environmental targets. Now, there is a critical need to examine and refine current strategies. 

At the forefront of these calls is Paolo Roberto Domondon (BS-PSYC, ‘05), the chief program officer (CPO) of Global Fishing Watch. Together with governments, agencies, and leaders around the world, he leads the development of programs and policies to solve the most pressing social and environmental issues.

Constant exposure to grim environmental realities in the Philippines has primed Paolo Domondon to deal with hardship proactively.

Advocacy and sacrifice

From an early age, Domondon was raised with a Lasallian education, which he believes fostered his spirit of volunteerism from high school to university. He spent his summers and weekends in various communities across the country to seek to understand why the Philippines had such high poverty rates despite having many talents and natural resources. “I sadly realized that many of us were so used to living in affluent bubbles in a sea of poverty,” reflects Domondon.

However, the decision to pursue his current vocation did not come until after college. At that time, he joined a two-week caravan advocating for children’s rights in Visayas, which allowed him to exchange stories with a juvenile delinquent. “He admitted that his friends and himself have killed somebody because of unfortunate circumstances…I just couldn’t understand back then how poverty can rob not only a life but also of one’s youth,”
Domondon shares. 

The experience became pivotal for Domondon, eventually leading him to abandon pursuing medical school. “Here I was spending a few weeks talking about rights but have never had the depth of what I was talking about,” he recalls. He has since found himself doing community development and environmental work for almost two decades. 

In the earlier years, he joined Gawad Kalinga, a community development foundation where he served various people in relocation sites in Southern Luzon, Mindoro, Zamboanga, and Basilan. Through the foundation, he contributed to disaster relief and rehabilitation work after typhoons Yolanda and Ondoy slammed the country. He even set up a regional office in Singapore to extend its reach beyond the Philippines. Those years made Domondon see how interrelated social and environmental issues are: “We can’t achieve social justice without addressing environmental justice, and we can’t achieve environmental justice without addressing social justice.”

Continuous efforts

The trajectory of Domondon’s career used to be atypical for a Lasallian. “I have been discouraged and disconnected from many for several years to join development work,” he admits. Despite these personal setbacks, Domondon has remained dedicated to his advocacies for decades, taking part in numerous organizations and programs to address both global and local concerns. Through the environmental organization Rare, he has worked on the protection of natural resources and the development of global policies in support of marine conservation and sustainability. This opportunity gave him a grounded understanding of the significance of joint efforts and developments in achieving national targets and global commitments, leading him to initiate and lead Coastal 500, the largest global network of local government leaders dedicated to the restoration of coastal communities.

He is also a member of the National Board of Trustees of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting where he worked to protect and ensure clean and honest elections in the country. Moreover, as a part of Asia Society, he and his peers inspire and teach others how to succeed in their fields through talks and connecting community professionals and leaders. These endeavors further honed his values of good governance, volunteerism, and teamwork.

Currently, he is the CPO for Global Fishing Watch, an environmental nonprofit organization that utilizes big data and machine learning technology to support ocean governance. In his position, he leads a global team dispersed in over 20 countries that addresses ocean, fishery, and biodiversity issues by engaging with both governments and civil society. 

In his many years of experience, Domondon admits that he has faced many challenges, both with work and personal matters. He explains that working for critical social and environmental justice issues requires both a sense of urgency and patience. “One needs to recognize that it takes time to see scaled and sustained changes. You need to be able to pace yourself and guard your energy to be able to see through things,” he shares.

A path for the future

For those who also aspire to enter the path of social and environmental activism, Domondon offers two pieces of advice. First, he suggests to truly understand one’s reasoning for pursuing this field as it will continue motivating them to work harder and diligently toward their goals. He also urges them to find joy in their service. This could be through surrounding oneself with people who share a similar passion, “Having a community of practice with the shared mission is what will keep you motivated and inspired to keep on going.”

Despite his many noteworthy achievements and contributions, Domondon asserts that the true value of advocacy goes beyond personal rewards and recognition. To him, it is about creating a positive and lasting impact on society: “I have always seen my participation in various organizations as another opportunity to do meaningful work…and a chance to give a better future for the next generation.”

This article was published in The LaSallian‘s Vanguard 2024 special. To read more, visit

Anceline Rhys Imson

By Anceline Rhys Imson

Linus Carl Perdon

By Linus Carl Perdon

Leave a Reply