A tribute to a fierce defender of Mother Earth
We were stunned by a sad news last Monday. Former Environment Secretary Gina Lopez, the fierce eco-warrior who has the purest of love for Mother Nature and compassion for the most vulnerable of our people, passed on.
She has this tremendous ability for putting words into works as her legendary projects attest, such as the establishment of Bantay Bata, the rehabilitation of Pasig River and La Mesa Dam and, during her rather short stint as DENR head, the closure of 23 mines.
Gina Lopez is one public servant who appreciated and understood the crucial role of non-government organizations, peoples organizations, academe and private sector as important partners in mainstreaming sustainable policies, choices and lifestyle. She might have been the only head of said agency who invited the civil society sector to be part of the department meetings and of the decision-making process. She got the direct and unfiltered information from affected communities which merited meaningful action from the agency.
Her innate love for the environment and our people has helped built the capacity of local communities to sustainably manage tourism destinations. Kinatarcan Island, which is part of the municipality of Sta. Fe in Cebu, benefitted tremendously from her incredible support and active promotion through the ILove Foundation which she set up after leaving government service. She worked with Southern Partners and Fair Trade Center, Inc., under the leadership of Gigi Labradores, government agencies, and other sectors in helping transform the lives of the residents and alleviate poverty on the island.
While our paths did not cross as often, it was always a privilege each time to be privy to her great insights, commitment and enthusiasm to protect Mother Earth.
Left to right: Oceana Advisor Alexandra Cousteau, then DENR Secretary Gina Lopez, Oceana Vice President and CDN Digital columnist Gloria Estenzo Ramos, former Biodiversity Management Bureau Director and current ASEAN Biodiversity Council Director Mundita Lim, and Oceana Senior Campaign Director Daniel Ocampo. |CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
She was mesmerized by the beauty and richness of the Benham Bank and agreed that it has to be protected, at the time when Oceana and several groups and sectors were campaigning for its legal protection, with an online petition supported by more than 26,000 signatories and direct advocacy action. Eventually, on May 15, 2018, President Rodrigo Duterte declared portions of the Philippine Rise including the pristine Benham Bank as a marine resource reserve and fisheries management area.
Gina’s life exemplified passion, courage and guts — loads of them and that touched so many. We are grateful and doubly enriched indeed because of extraordinary leaders like her.
Thank you, Gina. Your efforts will never be in vain. Many will carry on.
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