Former Philippines environment secretary Gina Lopez dies at 65

Coconuts Manila

Former environment secretary and philanthropist Regina “Gina” Lopez died earlier this morning after a lengthy battle with cancer. She was 65.

The announcement came this morning via ABS-CBN, the media corporation owned by the prominent Lopez clan. She was the second child of the late ABS-CBN chairman emeritus Eugenio Lopez Jr. and Conchita La’O Taylor.

In a statement today on the ABS-CBN website, the company credited her with establishing a number of charitable programs under the ABS-CBN Foundation Incorporated (AFI), where she served as a long-time chairperson. Her advocacies led to the establishment of the several projects including Bantay Bata 163, a national hotline where people could report various forms of 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 organization to help and serve others….We will never forget her and will continue to honor her remarkable contributions not only to ABS-CBN but the entire nation.”

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

Known for her stance against mining, Lopez served as President Rodrigo Duterte’s first Department of Environment and Natural Resources secretary from July 2016 to May 2017, only to have to step down from the role after the Commission on Appointments (CA) rejected her after several hearings. Environmental groups were outraged by what occurred but mining companies, which ran a high-profile lobbying campaign, rejoiced at the CA’s decision.

Lopez had openly discussed her battle with cancer. In her Philippine Star column on October 2017, she said she was first diagnosed with breast cancer years ago, which she said 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.

Even while undergoing treatment, Lopez expressed her concern about the dangers caused by mining to the environment. In a post that appeared in August on her Facebook page, she wrote, “I am lying down having an infusion of 27000 IU of vitamin C for my immune system and feeling the healing of a LENYO mat for my health crisis and browsing through videos and [I] come across this and [I] remember my DENR days – and how painful it all was… I really do sincerely hope something can be done about the destruction that mining brings on.”

In the post, Lopez attached a video from 2017 illustrating the dangers brought by open-pit mining.

Salvador Panelo, 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,” Panelo 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, according to CNN Philippines.

This article, Former Philippines environment secretary Gina Lopez dies at 65, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company. Want more Coconuts? Sign up for our newsletters!