August 20, 2019
ENVIRONMENTAL advocate and philanthropist Regina Paz “Gina” Lopez succumbed to multiple organ failure on Monday. She was 65.
Lopez, a former Environment secretary, was the chairman of ABS-CBN Foundation Inc. (AFI). She was the sister of ABS-CBN Chairman Emeritus Gabby Lopez and daughter of “Kapitan” Eugenio Lopez Jr.
“Gina was the pillar of strength that pushed AFI to achieve what seemed to be impossible. Her caring heart and selfless kind of love inspired people within and beyond the organization to help and serve others,” ABS-CBN said in a statement.
“While we mourn with Gina’s family and loved ones, we also pray that her legacy continues to live on in the heart of every Kapamilya she had touched in her lifetime. We will never forget her and will continue to honor her remarkable contributions not only to ABS-CBN, but the entire nation. Thank you Gina, for showing us how it is to live in the service of the Filipino,” it added.
Malacañang said Lopez’s advocacy “remains unparalleled to this day.”
“It is with a heavy heart that we express our sincerest condolences to her family, relatives, friends and loved ones,” Palace spokesman Salvador Panelo said.
Sen. Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go said it was an honor working with Lopez in the Duterte Cabinet.
“She was a fearless advocate and a tireless philanthropist, dedicating most of her life for the betterment of her fellow Filipinos. Her exceptional dedication in protecting our environment has no equal today,” the senator said.
Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu said Lopez was a “pure champion of the environment.”
“[She was] bold and fearless in her advocacies, regardless of the consequences. She was uncompromising in protecting watersheds and imposing high standards of responsibility on the mining industry. At the same time, Gina was compassionate for the underprivileged, and for them promoted ecotourism as a way out of poverty,” Cimatu added.
ABS-CBN Chairman Mark Lopez said the country lost a staunch environmentalist and children’s rights advocate.
“She left a comfortable life to devote her time and energy to help uplift other people’s lives,” he said in a statement.
He lauded his cousin for her efforts to rescue victims of child abuse, save a watershed, stop the destruction of the environment, clean a river and help communities stand on their own by turning them into eco-tourism sites.
Lopez was known for her work in rehabilitating the Pasig River and La Mesa Watershed and shutting down mining operations found to have violated environmental laws.
She founded Bantay Bata 163, a helpline for victims of child abuse. She also established Investments in Loving Organizations for Village Economies Foundation, which aims to lift communities out of poverty through the creation of environmentally conscious businesses at the grassroots level.
Tributes cascaded for Lopez, who was appointed secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in 2016. Her stint was brief because she did not get the approval of the Commission on Appointments.
Besides shutting down mining operations found to have violated environmental laws, she also canceled contracts for undeveloped mines and banned open-pit mining projects.
Farmer’s groups Anakpawis party-list and Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura commended Lopez’s fight for the environment.
“Her holistic approach not only [in] 1advocating a genuine pro-environment policy, but also a deep concern on communities made her close to the people. Thus, various sectors were vocal in supporting her to be the DENR secretary. But, unfortunately, the clamor fell on deaf ears,” Ariel Casilao, Anakpawis party-list vice president, said in a statement.
The fishing community also remembered Lopez for her campaign to dismantle vast tracts of fish pens in Laguna de Bay to let the lake recuperate from pollution and congestion.
“She was the most competent environment chief in Philippine history, standing firm against powerful giant mines without hesitation. She also committed [in] seeking consultations with the grassroots to hear their views on government projects that affect civil and socioeconomic rights,” fisherfolk group Pamalakaya Chairman Fernando Hicap said.
National Anti-Poverty Commission Secretary Liza Maza said Lopez was a model for women.
“She was feisty, passionate and unafraid to pursue her advocacies for the environment, children’s welfare and indigenous people’s rights, among others,” she said.
“She was articulate and fearless in presenting at Cabinet meetings DENR programs that would protect the environment, safeguard indigenous communities and create livelihood programs for the poor,” the former Social Welfare secretary said.
Greenpeace also mourned the Lopez’s death.
“Gina was a prime mover in many of our coalitions through the years, most recently with the Green Thumb Coalition of the last decade, which sought to ensure government accountability on environmental issues that plague our people and affect all other aspects of Filipino life,” Southeast Asia executive director Yeb Saño said. “The Department of Environment and Natural Resources championed people over profit, putting the welfare of the Filipino people over the exploitation and destruction of natural resources by corporate interests. She was also an inspiration to many for her courage and kindness.”
The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) remembered Lopez for being an animal lover, Earth warrior and activist.
“One of her greatest dreams was to see Mali free from loneliness and suffering at the Manila Zoo, and she played a crucial part in PETA’s campaign to accomplish that. We hope people will emulate her example by following their hearts to do what’s right, fighting for the environment and animals by standing up for them, and speaking up for Mali, who deserves to live in freedom and happiness at a sanctuary,” the group said. Mali is the 45-year-old elephant held at the Manila Zoo.
A memorial service will be held for Lopez at the La Mesa Eco Park on Thursday and Friday. Viewing will be from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
With a reports from DIVINA NOVA JOY DELA CRUZ AND ARIC JOHN SY CUA
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