Gina Lopez, political scourge of unscrupulous mining firms, dies aged 65

Regina "Gina" Paz Lopez
President Duterte with Archbishop Romulo Valles, Ateneo de Davao University President Joel Tabora (left), and Environment Secretary Regina “Gina” Paz Lopez (right) during a 2016 Environmental Summit called “OYA Mindanaw! State of Mindanao Environment Day”. Presidential photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Former environment secretary and committed philanthropist Regina “Gina” Lopez has died aged 65 after a lengthy battle with cancer.

The announcement was made today (Monday, August 19) by ABS-CBN, the media business owned by the Lopez family. She was the second child of the late ABS-CBN chairman Eugenio Lopez and Conchita La’O Taylor

In a statement today on the ABS-CBN website, the company credited her with establishing a number of charitable programmes under the ABS-CBN Foundation Incorporated (AFI). These included that Bantay Bata 163, a national hotline for reporting child abuse.

“With Gina’s passing, we lost a fervent advocate of children’s rights and protection, a passionate proponent of sustainable livelihood among the underprivileged, and an unswerving champion for environment preservation,” ABS-CBN said.

“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 organisation to help and serve others.

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

In a separate statement, the AFI said that there would be a public memorial service at the La Mesa Eco Park in Quezon City on August 22 and 23, from 9am to 9pm.

Known for her strong stance against mining companies, Lopez served as President Duterte’s first Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) secretary from July 2016 to May 2017. However, she was forced to step down after the Commission on Appointments rejected her after several hearingsEnvironmental groups were outraged but mining companies rejoiced at a decision they had lobbied hard to attain.

Lopez had openly discussed her battle with cancer. In a Philippine Star column in 2017, she revealed how she was first diagnosed with breast cancer many years ago, but was cured through natural means. However, in June, she told a friend that she was undergoing another round of treatments to cure her illness, which eventually spread to her brain.

Salvador Panelo, President Duterte’s spokesman, released a statement this morning expressing condolences.

“The palace deeply grieves the demise of one of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s most passionate Cabinet members whose environmental advocacy and legacy remain unparalleled to this day,” he said.

He added that Lopez “took the bull by the horns when she fiercely fought powerful interests in the mining sector, as well as in industries having a negative effect on our ecology. She will be greatly missed.”

Lopez is survived by her two sons.

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