Gina Lopez, a former environment and natural resources secretary under Pres. Rodrigo Duterte, a philanthropist, and an environmentalist, died of brain cancer on Monday morning at age 65.
Lopez was the founder and longtime chairperson of the ABS-CBN Foundation Inc. (AFI) and known to be a passionate advocate of the environment — fought against big polluters because she was saving it for the next generation.
She had been a known champion of social and environmental causes in the Philippines, including the whole Pasig River rehabilitation.
Lopez was also the one who initiated the campaign to save La Mesa watershed, which is the last remaining rainforest of its size in Metro Manila, and later renamed it into La Mesa Ecopark in 2004. The place is now a park full of trees where urban inhabitants can hike, fish, and ride mountain bikes or horses.
She also won several awards for serving the environment: the 1997 International Public Relations Award for Excellence for the Environment and the 2009 Outstanding Manilan Award for the Environment, and the international Seacology Prize award in 2017.
Gina Lopez’s passion remains unparalleled
Environmental coalition Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) marked Lopez as “a source of hope and inspiration for many communities and organizations that had the opportunity to work and be served by her.”
“For ten months as DENR secretary, ma’am Gina did the unthinkable – ordering the conduct of a mine audit, cancelling the mining contracts or suspending the operations of 26 mining projects and issuing new policies that ensure the mining industry is up to international standards on transparency and disclosures,” it said.
“Her values were unwavering. It was always personal for her, because the advocacies for her were all about people’s lives. How can it not be personal, when you know that this destruction will impact other people and especially the next generation?” it also shared.
“She’ll always be remembered that way: as a fighter whose legacy will be remembered by many,” Sen. Risa Hontiveros said in her social media post.
“She’s fiercely protective of the environment. She really worked hard for that with passion, dedication and courage,” Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said as he was remembering the late environmentalist during his ANC interview.
The environment defender will be remembered
Malacañang also mourned the passing of the philanthropist, saying Lopez’s advocacy “remains unparalleled to this day.”
“The Palace deeply grieves the demise of one of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s most passionate Cabinet members whose environmental advocacy and legacy remains unparalleled to this day,” Panelo also said in a statement.
After Lopez’ government task, she started the I LOVE or Investments in Loving Organizations for Village Economies, an organization which she hoped would promote “green models” across the country.
“She’s always thinking of how to uplift the status of life of poor folks,” Panelo added.
Showbiz celebrities also poured out their praises and emotions for the late environmentalist.
Singer-actor Ogie Alcasid shared on his Instagram account, thanking Lopez for her great contributions to Filipinos and the environment.
“Maraming salamat po Mam Gina sa lahat ng inyong nagawa para mga kababayan nating [nangangailangan] ng tulong at kalinga at sa inyong walang patid na pagpapahalaga sa kalikasan. Pagpalain kayo ng ating Panginoon.”
Kim Atienza, a TV host, also extended their sympathies to the Lopez family, saying “I love you dear friend. You will be missed.”
Erwan Heusaff, the husband of Anne Curtis, also a vlogger, and a restaurateur, however, reminisced his moment with Lopez during their Tawi-Tawi trip.
“I have never met someone that was so driven by her passions. Someone who understood that even in front of adversity, we are the change that we want to see in the world. A staunch champion for thousands of voiceless communities and an infallible protector of the environment. Mother Nature personified, Gina leaves behind a legacy that we should all be inspired by, urging us to become better and help out, in whatever little ways we can, to improve the lives of everyone in our country,” Huesaff described.
“I spent just 4 days with her in Tawi Tawi and in that small amount of time, we had already spoken about grand plans, to a point where I was left confused by where to start. She woke up earlier than everyone else and met with community leaders, later than the rest of us,” Heusaff also reminisced.
“She taught us that it’s all about moving forward, knowing that the race will never truly end, content with the impact we leave along the way.”
“Like rays of sunshine, your energy will continue to stir our souls, even on the cloudiest days.”