The Philippines’ environment stalwart Gina Lopez dies

The former environment secretary, who last year launched initiatives to support sustainable and inclusive business, was 65.

gina lopez
Former Philippines environment secretary Gina Lopez. Image: BBC World Service, CC BY-NC 2.0

Filipino environmentalist, philanthropist and sustainable livelihood advocate, Regina Paz “Gina” Lopez, passed away on Monday. She was 65.

Lopez, who served as environment secretary under President Rodrigo Duterte in 2016, is remembered for launching an intense crackdown on mining companies.

Lopez was also a philanthropist and child rights advocate who founded and served as long-time chairperson of the non-profit arm of media company ABS-CBN, where she led several programmes including environmental conservation watchdog Bantay Kalikasan and Bantay Bata 163, the first-ever rescue hotline in Asia for reporting child abuse.

In March last year, Lopez launched Investments in Loving Organizations for Village Economies (I.L.O.V.E.), a platform that links investors to communities operating sustainable livelihood projects.

ABS-CBN said in a statement of Lopez’s passing, the nation has lost a “pillar of strength.”

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 [family member] she had touched in her lifetime.” 

“We will never forget her and will continue to honour her remarkable contributions not only to ABS-CBN, but the entire nation,” the statement said.

The Duterte administration, through its spokesperson Salvador Panelo, described Lopez as one of Duterte’s “most passionate” cabinet members who “took the bull by the horns when she fiercely fought powerful interests in the mining sector, as well as in industries having negative effect on our ecology.”

“[Her] environmental advocacy and legacy remains unparalleled to this day,” he said in a statement.

Yeb Saño, the Manila-based executive director of green group Greenpeace Southeast Asia, said in a statement that the environmental movement had lost a warrior.

“Her spirit lives on in the movement that she so helped build. Those of us she left behind will continue to forge on for a better environment, the protection of people’s rights, and better lives for the Filipino people,” Saño said.

In September last year, Lopez’s brother, ABS-CBN Publishing chair Ernie Lopez, spoke on her behalf for the launch of Eco-Business Philippines.

Eco-Business’ managing director Jessica Cheam said: “Gina Lopez was a person who would not think twice about giving her support to initiatives that would secure a sustainable future for her own country. We are heartbroken upon hearing the loss of such an amazing person who was an inspiration to us all.”

A public viewing of Lopez’s remains will be held at the La Mesa Eco Park from 22 to 23 August, from 9am to 9pm. In lieu of flowers and cards, the family requested that donations be made to the ABS-CBN Foundation.

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