It was a downcast day when national TV suddenly announced the untimely death of Regina Paz “Gina” La’O Lopez (December 27, 1953 – August 19, 2019). Daughter to ABS-CBN’s Chairman Emeritus Eugenio Lopez, Jr., Lopez is known for her selfless contributions toward social and civic developments be it in the Philippines or abroad.
Helping Those In Need
Born into one of the prestigious families in the Philippines, Lopez opted to dedicate several years to missionary life as she lived among indigents in places like India and Africa.
When she came back to the Philippines, Lopez began spearheading varied pro-environment and pro-poor ventures as she became the Managing Director of the ABS-CBN Foundation.
She started the BantayBata 163, a hotline preventing maltreatment of children. She also initiated the birth of Bantay Kalikasan, a project focusing on the protection of the environment.
Through her unwavering dedication and altruistic efforts, the rehabilitation of the Pasig River and the reforestation of the La Mesa Watershed Reservation were also enacted.
Appointed by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte as Cabinet Secretary for DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resorces), Lopez was much criticized due to her highly coveted status as one of the country’s most rich-and-famous.
However, she surprised everyone when she commenced critical audit of certificates and permits previously given to mining companies all over the nation. Because of this, a lot of these groups and firms were stripped of their authorizations to operate; thereby discontinuing their dubious, if not abusive, mining activities.
Lopez was also a staunch advocate for the indigenous peoples (IP) of the country. During her time, she established the need for consultations between the said sector and the DENR. She also called for the widespread revivification of all protected areas in the Philippines, pointing out sustainable development sans the necessity for dangerous enterprises like the Nuclear Power Plant in Bataan.
A lot of giant businesses attempted to discredit her. They pointed out her connection to ABS-CBN, one of the leading media networks in the country, as if being rich disqualified her from being a veritable guardian of nature. Yet, a lot of NGOs (Non-Government Organizations) supported her environment policies.
Rejection Of Appointment
In the midst of ongoing discussions regarding Lopez’ controversial actions as Environment Secretary, her appointment was rejected by the CA (Commission on Appointments) on 3 May 2017 (see https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gina_Lopez).
Immediately after this, Lopez launched her television show, G Diaries, which focused on the environment. She also campaigned against the lifting of the open-pit mining ban. However, the edict was reversed on 24 October 2017 by the MICC (Mining Industry Coordinating Council).
Lopez astounds us with how she chose to dedicate her life to the service of others. Birthed into the alta sociedad of the Philippines, she could have opted to live in affluent glamour and blessed oblivion.
Instead, she elected to spend a sizable chunk of her life in obscurity while uplifting those in the slums. She drew undeserved flak as she aimed to correct atrocities done to the environment. Even when she was already in the grips of cancer, she was still fighting for the marginalized and the abused.
Gina Lopez died on 19 August 2019 due to multiple organ failure. Loved ones, friends, colleagues, and employees alike stress Lopez’ innate, sunny disposition. They emphasize her unfailing benevolence, inner strength, simplicity, and humility. They speak of the gaping hole that her absence creates.
Indeed, woe betide the Philippines, if not the world, as it loses another of its fast-dwindling gems.