Regina Paz “Gina” Lopez, an unswerving environmental champion of sustainable livelihood and environmental protection, died early Monday at the age of 65.
Environmental Legal Assistance Center (ELAC) executive director Atty. Grizelda Mayo-Anda, who worked with Lopez on advocating for environmental protection in Palawan, expressed her grief for losing “a very valuable environmental champion”.
“She was a key player in the no-to-mining campaign in 2011. She plays a critical role in our fight against mining and other destructive forms of activities,” Atty. Anda said.
Gina vs mining
Lopez had focused her advocacy work in Palawan as the co-founder of the Save Palawan Movement. She led the anti-mining campaign in gathering 10 million signatures in December 2015.
Her work and advocacy for Palawan prompted the Aquino administration to declare a no-new-mining policy in the province.
During her short stint as environment secretary from June 30, 2016, to May 3, 2017, she was able to audit all mining firms from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.
She visited Palawan three times to oversee the audits where she suspended Berong Nickel Corp. and Citinickel Mines and Development Corp. after failing to secure an ISO 14001 Certification, which the DENR required from mining companies in an administrative order issued in 2017.
Gina says no to coal
While she was DENR Secretary, she met with Palawan Electric Cooperative (PALECO) officials and several local stakeholders where she lectured all the officials why the proposed coal plant will be bad for the province.
Atty. Anda said that during her meeting with Gina Lopez in December 2016, she was strongly against the coal power plant proposal as she knows how destructive it could be for Palawan’s biodiversity.
“I think if she were the DENR secretary now, the environmental compliance certificate (ECC) for the DMCI coal power plant project would not have pushed through”, Atty. Anda said.
On a Facebook statement posted by the Save Palawan Movement, the civic group expressed their deepest condolences for losing an environmental champion. They vowed to continue Lopez’s legacy by upholding the ideals of conservation, community empowerment, and environmental justice.
“It had to take a Gina Lopez to keep the (destructive) companies on their toes—compelled to comply. She is nothing if not a persistent woman. Our goals will be constantly high in our agenda continuing her legacy,” Atty. Anda said.
Public viewing will be held at the La Mesa Eco Park on August 22 to 23.