By Vincent Mariel P. Galang
and Arjay L. Balinbin, Reporters
REGINA Paz “Gina” L. Lopez, the former Environment secretary who rattled the mining industry after she shut down erring large-scale operations, has died. She was 65.
Ms. Lopez passed away on Aug. 19 due to multiple organ failure, according to ABS-CBN News. In January 2018, Ms. Lopez posted on Facebook that she was battling cancer.
“Gina Lopez was a champion for the environment, child protection and the disadvantaged,” ABS-CBN Foundation, Inc., where Ms. Lopez was chairperson, said in a statement yesterday. “She exemplified a life of service to humanity with a deep desire to improve people’s lives.”
Ms. Lopez served as Environment chief for less than a year through May 2017, before Congress rejected her appointment by President Rodrigo R. Duterte because of her anti-mining stance.
The environmental advocate and philanthropist shuttered more than a dozen mining operations and suspended more after months of audit. She also banned open pit mining and wanted to cancel mining contracts near watersheds.
The presidential palace said Ms. Lopez was one of the president’s most passionate alter-egos.
“It is with a heavy heart that we express our sincerest condolences to her family, relatives, friends and loved ones,” presidential spokesman Salvador S. Panelo said in a statement. He said her environmental advocacy and legacy “remains unparalleled to this day.”
“Gina was a pure champion of the environment, bold and fearless in her advocacies, regardless of the consequences” her successor Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu said in a statement. “She was uncompromising in protecting watersheds and imposing high standards of responsibility on the mining industry,” said Mr. Cimatu, a former military general.
“In her rather short stint in government service, she proved that with political will and deep love for our planet and people, our long languishing environmental laws and policies can be implemented,” said Gloria Estenzo Ramos, vice president of environmental group Oceana Philippines.
Ms. Lopez was the daughter of ABS-CBN Chairman Emeritus Eugenio Lopez, Jr. and Conchita La’O. She had six siblings including ABS-CBN Chairman Eugenio Lopez III.
Ms. Lopez went to Assumption College and Newton College of the Sacred Heart in Boston. She held a master’s degree in Development Management from the Asian Institute of Management.
After studying in the US, Ms. Lopez left Manila and became a yoga missionary for 20 years, and lived in Portugal, India and Africa, according to ABS-CBN News. She is survived by her two sons.
“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,” People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals Manager Ashley Fruno said in a statement.
There will be a memorial service for the public at the La Mesa Eco Park on Aug. 22 to 23 from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., according to the ABS-CBN Foundation.