Quantcast

Gina Lopez, Who Led Anti-Mining Crackdown in Philippines, Dies at 65

Climate
Gina Lopez, the Philippine secretary of the environment, at a meeting with residents affected by a mine tailing disaster. Keith Schneider

Gina Lopez, a former Philippine environment secretary, philanthropist and eco-warrior, died on Aug. 19 from brain cancer. She was 65.


Lopez was best known for fighting against destructive mining practices in her country, a crusade that spanned roles in both the private and public sector. In 2010, she joined forces with the Palawan NGO Network Inc. (PNNI) to establish the Save Palawan Movement, a coalition of grassroots civil society organizations that pushed for a total mining ban on the island of Palawan, home to an underground river and cave system that's a UNESCO World Heritage Site. She initiated an anti-mining petition that garnered a landmark 10 million signatures, and by 2012, then-President Benigno Aquino Jr. issued an executive order banning new mining permits.

"Because of her, Palawan became the baseline of civil societies in other areas on the grassroots level," said Elizabeth Maclang, the former PNNI advocacy officer and now park superintendent of the Puerto Princesa Underground River. "She strengthen[ed] our civil society groups here."

President Rodrigo Duterte appointed Lopez as his cabinet secretary for the environment and natural resources in June 2016. Once in office, she led a massive audit of all mining operations in the country, cancelled the approval of 75 proposed mines in watershed areas, ordered the closure of 26 mines for environment violations, and suspended five other contracts.

But her tenure was short-lived; less than a year later, in May 2017, the congressional Commission on Appointments overturned her appointment, amid issues over her controversial policies and alleged incompetence, CNN Philippines reported at the time.

Regina "Gina" Lopez was born Dec. 27, 1953, into the prominent Lopez family behind ABS-CBN, the Philippines biggest media conglomerate. The family also has holdings in natural gas. Lopez was a longtime chair of the ABS-CBN Foundation Inc. (AFI), where she established a helpline to rescue abused children, an initiative that won the United Nations Grand Award for Excellence in 1997. Under her leadership, the foundation also supported the rehabilitation of the La Mesa watershed and the Pasig River, as well as provided financial assistance and training to rural communities in developing ecotourism initiatives.

"She thinks that if you want to discourage communities from allowing mining into their areas, you have to give locals an alternative," Maclang said. "To make sure that mining corporations could not enter areas in Palawan, she strengthened communities and pushed for ecotourism."

Maclang said it was also Lopez's influence that encouraged communities to file cases against mining violations:

"Although she's very vocal and she ends up with a lot of enemies, her passion is inspiring. We, on the ground, were infected by her courage. Like her, we persevere, we fight ... it helped us knowing that she has our backs."

In a statement, Yeb Saño of Greenpeace Philippines hailed Lopez as a "prime mover" in many environmental coalitions, particularly the Green Thumb Coalition, composed of more than 40 national and local organizations demanding government accountability on environment issues.

"Under her leadership, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources championed people over profit, putting the welfare of the Filipino people over the exploitation and destruction of natural resources by corporate interests," Saño said in the statement. "She was also an inspiration to many for her courage and kindness."

Reposted with permission from our media associate Mongabay.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

An aerial view of a neighborhood destroyed by the Camp Fire on Nov. 15, 2018 in Paradise, Calif. Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Respecting scientists has never been a priority for the Trump Administration. Now, a new investigation from The Guardian revealed that Department of the Interior political appointees sought to play up carbon emissions from California's wildfires while hiding emissions from fossil fuels as a way to encourage more logging in the national forests controlled by the Interior department.

Read More
Slowing deforestation, planting more trees, and cutting emissions of non-carbon dioxide greenhouse gases like methane could cut another 0.5 degrees C or more off global warming by 2100. South_agency / E+ / Getty Images

By Dana Nuccitelli

Killer hurricanes, devastating wildfires, melting glaciers, and sunny-day flooding in more and more coastal areas around the world have birthed a fatalistic view cleverly dubbed by Mary Annaïse Heglar of the Natural Resources Defense Council as "de-nihilism." One manifestation: An increasing number of people appear to have grown doubtful about the possibility of staving-off climate disaster. However, a new interactive tool from a climate think tank and MIT Sloan shows that humanity could still meet the goals of the Paris agreement and limit global warming.

Read More
Sponsored
A baby burrowing owl perched outside its burrow on Marco Island, Florida. LagunaticPhoto / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Burrowing owls, which make their homes in small holes in the ground, are having a rough time in Florida. That's why Marco Island on the Gulf Coast passed a resolution to pay residents $250 to start an owl burrow in their front yard, as the Marco Eagle reported.

Read More
Amazon and other tech employees participate in the Global Climate Strike on Sept. 20, 2019 in Seattle, Washington. Amazon Employees for Climate Justice continue to protest today. Karen Ducey / Getty Images

Hundreds of Amazon workers publicly criticized the company's climate policies Sunday, showing open defiance of the company following its threats earlier this month to fire workers who speak out on climate change.

Read More
Locusts swarm from ground vegetation as people approach at Lerata village, near Archers Post in Samburu county, approximately 186 miles north of Nairobi, Kenya on Jan. 22. "Ravenous swarms" of desert locusts in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia threaten to ravage the entire East Africa subregion, the UN warned on Jan. 20. TONY KARUMBA / AFP / Getty Images

East Africa is facing its worst locust infestation in decades, and the climate crisis is partly to blame.

Read More