The Manila-based Ramon Magsaysay Award, named after a Filipino president who was killed in a plane crash, was established in 1957 to honour people or groups who change communities for the better and is often described as Asia's Nobel Prize.
Among this year's six awardees is Hu Shuli, 61, founder and editor of Caijing, a business magazine famed for its groundbreaking investigative reporting that has had a profound impact on China.
Its reports on illegal trading, "government cover-up of the true extent of the 2003 SARS epidemic", and corporate fraud led to the ousting of high public officials, prosecution of business leaders, and stock market reforms, the foundation said.
"Hers is a journalism that works within the system but preserves the critical distance that is journalism's strength," the award citation said of Hu.
Another winner was Chinese lawyer Wang Canfa, 55, founder of the Centre for Legal Assistance to Pollution Victims, which has handled thousands of environmental complaints and beaten powerful industrialists in court.
Its efforts have also included training lawyers and judges, as well as drafting environmental laws and regulations, the foundation said.
"As long as we persist, the goal of establishing Chinese environmental rule of law will be achieved someday," the award quoted Wang as saying.
Also honoured were Indonesian anthropologist Saur Marlina Manurung, National Museum of Afghanistan director Omara Khan Masoudi, Filipino teacher Randy Halasan, and the Pakistani non-government group The Citizen's Foundation.
Manurung, 42, was cited for "her ennobling passion to protect and improve the lives of Indonesia's forest people" through jungle schools put up by her organisation.
Masoudi, 66, was honoured for saving some of the museum's most precious objects from the "bombings, looting, and wilful destruction by the Taliban" insurgents of what they considered Afghanistan's non-Muslim heritage.
Halasan, 31, was recognised for teaching the children of the Matigsalug tribe in one of the remotest mountain villages in the Philippines.
The Citizens Foundation, organised by Pakistani business leaders, was honoured for putting up schools that gave equal opportunities to girls in a country where education for women is anathema to some religious extremists.
This year's winners will be invited to Manila for an awards ceremony on August 31.