Environmental groups mourn death of 'eco-warrior' Gina Lopez

MANILA, Philippines – Environmental groups on Monday, August 19, mourned the demise of former environment secretary Gina Lopez, who was known for her activism and passion for nature and communities.

Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) lauded the 65-year-old Lopez for her fight against irresponsible mining companies, going as far as ordering the conduct of a mining audit and cancelling contracts.

"It is rare to have an oligarch wage a battle against her own class.  This reflects how clear the mission was to her," ATM said. (READ: What drives Gina Lopez?)

Lopez's move against elite mining companies cost her the post as environment secretary, as she was rejected by the Commission on Appointments. She only held the post for 10 months. (READ: Green vs greed? The Lopezes' new family saga)

"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?" ATM added.

Her successor, retired military general Roy Cimatu, remembered her as a "pure champion of the environment" who took her advocacies to heart "regardless of the consequences." (READ: Green groups: Lopez is 'right choice' for DENR post)

"She was uncompromising in protecting watersheds and imposing high standards of responsibility on the mining industry," Cimatu said.

Greenpeace Philippines said that with Lopez's death, the Earth "lost a warrior." 

"But her spirit lives on in the movement that she so helped build. Those of us she left behind will continue to forge on for a better environment, the protection of people's rights, and better lives for the Filipino people. Heeding Gina's exemplar, we will not be cowed by the greed and arrogance of those who destroy the environment," the group said.

Legacy

Meanwhile, the Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development (CEED) recalled Lopez's achievements when she was with the ABS-CBN Bayan Foundation and the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission (PRRC).

CEED emphasized that Lopez's leadership greatly helped in the rehabilitation of the La Mesa Watershed and the Pasig River. She also launched the 10-million signature campaign to stop destructive mining activities in Palawan.

"Her tenacity in pursuing the preservation of the integrity of ecosystems was unwavering, even in the face of criticism," CEED said.

Lopez served as PRRC chairperson from 2009 to 2016. She initiated programs which led to the improvement of the river system's water quality. Her efforts eventually led to the Pasig River winning the Asia Riverprize in 2018.

"She will always be the champion of the Filipino communities and will forever be remembered as the unwavering advocate and muse of the Pasig River," PRRC said.

In a separate statement, PRRC Executive Director Jose Antonio Goitia called Lopez his "mentor and inspiration."

"I promise to continue working on your legacy and ensure that the Pasig River, clean and alive, will reflect the ultimate success of our sustainable rehabilitation programs," Goitia added. 

The Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities said the way to honor Lopez's legacy is to "continuously develop and implement effective strategies that can more quickly reduce harm and empower the vulnerable to fight harder for a future that is safe, filled with meaning and hope, and replete with joy."

Sandugo-Movement of Moro and Indigenous Peoples for Self-Determination thanked Lopez for being a "rare ally" in the indigenous peoples' fight to defend ancestral lands "against the encroachment of large-scale mines and other forms of development aggression."

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), meanwhile, recalled that Lopez played a big part in the campaign to free Mali, the depressed elephant from the Manila Zoo.

"We hope people will emulate her example by following their hearts to do what's right, fighting for the environment and animals by standing up for them, and speaking up for Mali, who deserves to live in freedom and happiness at a sanctuary," PETA said.

Other groups also extended their heartfelt condolences and remembered Lopez as an advocate not just for the environment, but also for the children and the marginalized. 

 

 with a report from Jene-Anne Pangue/Rappler.com

Ralf Rivas

A sociologist by heart, a journalist by profession. Ralf is Rappler's business reporter, covering macroeconomy, government finance, companies, and agriculture.

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