Gina Lopez

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Gina López
Regina Paz Lopez.jpg
Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources
Ad interim
In office
June 30, 2016 – May 3, 2017
PresidentRodrigo Duterte
Preceded byRamon Paje
Succeeded byRoy Cimatu
Chairperson of Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission
Assumed office
August 23, 2010
PresidentBenigno S. Aquino III
Rodrigo Duterte
Preceded byHoracio C. Ramos
Personal details
Born
Regina Paz La'O Lopez

(1953-12-27) December 27, 1953 (age 65)
ParentsEugenio M. López Jr.
Conchita La'O
Alma materAssumption College
Newton College of the Sacred Heart
Asian Institute of Management
Occupation
  • Cabinet secretary
  • executive
  • environmentalist
  • philanthropist

Regina Paz "Gina" La'O López (born December 27, 1953) is a Filipino environmentalist and philanthropist who is the incumbent Chairperson of the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission. She served as Secretary of the Philippines' Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in an ad interim basis under President Rodrigo Duterte.[1][2] She is also a former yoga missionary and a pioneer for corporate social responsibility.

On May 3, 2017, the Commission on Appointments formally rejected her appointment as environment secretary.[3] She is the second member of President Rodrigo Duterte's cabinet to be rejected by the Commission on Appointments next to former Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay.

Early life[edit]

López is the daughter of ABS-CBN Chairman Emeritus Eugenio López, Jr. of Iloilo and Conchita La'O of Manila. She has six siblings including ABS-CBN Chairman Eugenio López III. Lopez went to Assumption College and Newton College of the Sacred Heart in Boston. She has a master's degree in Development Management from the Asian Institute of Management. She has two sons.

Civic involvement[edit]

After studying in the United States, Lopez left her privileged life in Manila and became a yoga missionary for twenty dedicated years and lived in Portugal, India, and Africa. She met her now former husband in Africa with whom she had two sons. She became an Ananda Marga yoga missionary who taught yoga, and ran pre-primary schools and children's homes for the underprivileged.[4] She lived among the people of slum areas in Africa guided by the slogan ‘Service to humanity is service to God’.[5]

When she returned to the Philippines, she initiated corporate social responsibility programs for the environment and Filipino communities. She became the Managing Director of the ABS-CBN Foundation.[6]

She initiated Bantay Bata 163, the country’s first media-based hotline. In 1997, Bantay Bata was the United Nations Grand Awardee for Excellence besting 187 countries all over the world.[citation needed]

She established Bantay Kalikasan, for which she received the 1997 International Public Relations Award of Excellence for the Environment and Outstanding Manilans Award for the Environment, 2009.[7]

She produced educational television shows on Science, Math, Values, History and English for elementary and Philippine Literature for high school. For Sineskwela, Ms. Lopez was honored with the UNESCO Kalinga Award, the first Southeast Asian to earn such a distinction.[citation needed]

She is also the Vice-Chairperson of ABS-CBN Bayan Foundation, which provides microfinance assistance to micro-entrepreneurs. She is also the Chairman Emeritus of Southeast Asian Children’s Television.[7]

Lopez also initiated the rehabilitation of the Pasig River and nearby urban streams through the Kapit Bisig para sa Ilog Pasig project.[8] Once considered as the lifeline of the Filipino nation, Pasig River is one of the most polluted and toxic river systems in the Philippines today. For her efforts in rehabilitating the river, she was appointed in 2010 by President Benigno S. Aquino as the Chairperson of the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission. Her efforts in the commission led to a river rehabilitation revolution which cleansed numerous tributaries in the Pasig river system. She was also responsible for the reforestation of the La Mesa Watershed Reservation, the last remaining forest zone in Metro Manila.[9]

She organized Bayanijuan (lit. Country of Juan. Lopez also launched the Save Palawan Movement along with partner organizations and gathered 7 million signatures for a petition for protection of key biodiversity areas and against mining.[7] Lopez is a vehement anti-mining advocate, known for her stance against large-scale mining in the province of Palawan. She backs the No Mining In Palawan Movement.[10] She has also objected to the use of fossil fuels as sources of energy and coal mining.[11]

Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources[edit]

During a courtesy visit with President Rodrigo Duterte in Davao City, Lopez initiated an environmental lecture for Duterte about the need for a better national environmental policy. Duterte then asked her to be his secretary for environment. A few days later, she accepted the offer and was formally appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte to head the Department of Environment and Natural Resources or DENR. She was grilled by social media on her appointment because of her family name, Lopez, which is much regarded as a Filipino business tycoon surname.[12]

She hit the ground running on the very first day in office. She audited all mining sites and firms in the entire republic and stripped environmental certificates from a bulk of the mining industry due to massive violations against the environment and the law, the first time a secretary of environment did so. This led to a massive public support for her work as DENR secretary and apology to her for the appointment grilling that happened in social media. Few of the many notable certificates that were stripped were those for mining companies doing operations in Semirara Island (a key biodiversity area) in Antique, Eastern Samar, Surigao del Sur which is home to indigenous Lumad communities, and Cordillera Administrative Region which the melting pot of northern Luzon indigenous people. She has advocated a 100% renewable energy Philippines and is vehemently against mining saying, "The Philippines does not need mining." Her anti-mining sentiment is backed by years of Philippine research on mining, both ecologically and economically. She also said that there will be no mining operations of any form on Palawan, which is popularly known as the last ecological frontier of the country. Within less than 2 months, she has audited all mining firms from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. She is also an indigenous people (IP) advocate. She immediately established forums for consultations between the DENR and the indigenous people sector in the Philippines, the first time such a DENR secretary did so. She also established the first ever DENR public hotline wherein the public can tell all environmental violations of any entity in the country directly to the DENR and her office. She is against nuclear energy due to years of research about the matter. The Nuclear Power Plant in Bataan will only contribute to less than 0.5% to the National Energy Grid when operated and its costs will be much higher, making it unsustainable. She prefers the establishment of more wind and solar power plants, which are massively cheaper and sustainable in the long-run, and the possible cooperation of the Philippines and Australia to establish the first wave energy plants in Asia. The Philippines is the center of the Pacific Typhoon Belt, bestowing it with the most maximized wind and wave shocks in the world.[13]

In a public announcement, she told media that all buffer zones in all protected areas in the country shall also be revitalized into their natural state. She is also pushing for the establishment of numerous protected areas in the country such as the West Panay Mountain Range National Park. She also announced that the UP Arboretum will be an ecological paradise where the informal settlers in the area will be the partners for its development. Her environmental policies are much criticized by some big business ventures and pro-mining lawmakers[14] in the republic (her father owns one of the biggest companies in the country), but are backed by numerous environmental and human rights NGO's. In a recent survey, Filipinos back Lopez' environmental policy by a huge majority. She has been called a symbol and champion of environmental conservation in the country ever since.[15]

Lopez's appointment as Environment Secretary was rejected by the Commission on Appointments (CA) in a vote of 8–16 on May 3, 2017 amid issues over her controversial policies and alleged incompetence.[3] In a press conference after the announcement of her rejection, Lopez thanked the eight CA members who "voted according to their conscience" and urged the legislators to look after the needs of the poor and not of big businesses. She said "it is unfortunate that business interest have in fact run the day." She added "if government co-opts to big businesses, then what hope does the poor have? What message are we giving here? If you wanna be confirmed, don't go against big businesses."[3] She was asked if President Duterte has talked to her after her rejection in the COA, wherein she said 'not yet.' Duterte's own minister of foreign affairs and defeated vice presidential partner Alan Cayetano voted against Lopez' appointment as environment secretary. It was then revealed that all CA members who rejected Lopez's appointment were allies of President Rodrigo Duterte, the same person who initially appointed her as DENR Secretary, stirring speculations of another flip-flop from the president.

Return to Private Sector and Public Activism[edit]

Lopez continued to chair the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission afterwards. A new DENR secretary was named a few days after Lopez was rejected. The new secretary, former military general Roy Cimatu, was first asked about his competencies as DENR secretary by media, of which he said 'nagtanim na ko ng puno dati' or 'I planted a tree before'. The country's environmental coalition of NGOs rallied against Cimatu's appointment, which fell on deaf ears by government. Cimatu's appointment would later be confirmed by the CA, despite him not having any background in environmental conservation or allied fields.

A few weeks after her rejection, Lopez confirmed that The Manila Times offered Lopez an opinion column. She voiced her opposition on the continuation of the Nickelodeon Theme Park that she blocked when she was DENR Secretary. The theme park was approved by Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo a month after Lopez was taken out from the environment post. The theme park was 'an ecological destroyer' according to various environment NGOs, especially when the site, Coron, is in the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The approval of the theme park was later revoked after massive protests and dissent surged in Coron town and key Metro areas.

Lopez currently hosts an environmental show in ABS-CBN, entitled G Diaries, which premiered June 4, 2017. The show focuses on environmental conservation and innovations. The show also premiered in ANC due to its high ratings.

She became the first Filipino to be awarded the prestigious Seacology Prize on October 5, 2017 at Berkeley, California. The prize states the Lopes is "someone who has shown exceptional achievement in preserving island environments and culture" and “shown the vision and courage the Seacology Prize is meant to honor. She has fought for the Philippines environment and gave island communities there a voice in the decisions that affect their natural resources and their lives.”[16] She was also cited for establishing the first ever consultations between the government and indigenous groups in the Philippines and for banning open-pit mining.[17]

In the same month, Lopez campaigned against the possible lifting of the open-pit mining ban, which she installed while DENR secretary. It was revealed that newly appointed DENR Secretary Cimatu supported the lifting of the ban, causing outrage from environmental organizations. The lifting of the ban was also supported by President Duterte, despite backing Lopez's imposition of the ban in early 2017. On October 24, the ban was officially lifted by the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC), a commission which advocated mining in the Philippines. 26 mining agreements that were halted by Lopez were sent by Cimatu to the MICC for evaluation and confirmation as well.[18][19]

In popular culture[edit]

López was portrayed by Paula Peralejo in the 1995 film Eskapo.

Awards[edit]

  • United Nations Grand Awardee for Excellence (1997) for the Bantay Bata 163 which she initiated and advocated
  • International Public Relations Award of Excellence for the Environment (1997)
  • Outstanding Manilans Award for the Environment (2009)
  • UNESCO Kalinga Award, where she was the first Southeast Asian to receive the prestigious award
  • Doctorate Degree in Humanities, Honoris Causa from the Ateneo de Naga University
  • 2017 Seacology Prize [16]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Gina Lopez accepts Duterte's DENR offer". ABS-CBN News. June 21, 2016. Retrieved June 21, 2016.
  2. ^ "CA Plenary Rejects Gina Lopez' Appointment as Environment Secretary". Retrieved May 3, 2017.
  3. ^ a b c "CA rejects Gina Lopez appointment as DENR chief". CNN Philippines. May 3, 2017. Retrieved May 3, 2017.
  4. ^ "Gina Lopez on her Ashram Years and Turning Her Back on a Privileged Life". Rogue Media Inc. 22 June 2016.
  5. ^ "Did you know? Gina Lopez used to be a missionary". ABS-CBN News.
  6. ^ "Gina Lopez takes oath as Pasig River rehab chief". ABS-CBN News. August 23, 2010. Retrieved June 21, 2016.
  7. ^ a b c https://globalcsr.pinnaclegroup.global/2013/speaker/regina-paz-l-lopez/
  8. ^ "Gains of Pasig River rehab project cited in 6th year". Philippine Daily Inquirer. February 20, 2015. Retrieved June 21, 2016.
  9. ^ "Gina Lopez: Managing director of ABS-CBN Foundation". Asian Travel Magazine. Retrieved June 21, 2016.
  10. ^ "Gina Lopez briefs Palace on anti-mining campaign in Palawan". ABS-CBN News. April 28, 2011. Retrieved June 21, 2016.
  11. ^ Ranada, Pia (June 21, 2016). "Gina Lopez accepts DENR post". Rappler. Retrieved June 21, 2016.
  12. ^ "Gina Lopez - The latest from Inquirer News". newsinfo.inquirer.net.
  13. ^ "What drives Gina Lopez?".
  14. ^ Cayabyab, Marc Jayson. "Lawmaker calls Gina Lopez 'crazy' for closing down mine firms".
  15. ^ Gamil, Jaymee T. "Lopez eyes UP Arboretum dev't".
  16. ^ a b "Gina Lopez, former Philippines environment secretary, wins Seacology Prize - Seacology". 5 October 2017.
  17. ^ Bureau, Jon Caña, ABS-CBN North America News. "Gina Lopez wins top prize for work in protecting PH environment".
  18. ^ "Gina Lopez hits lifting of open-pit mining ban". The Manila Times Online.
  19. ^ Jr., Joey A. Gabieta, Nestle Semilla, Nestor P. Burgos. "Protests staged in Visayas vs coal-fired plant, destructive mining".
Political offices
Preceded by
Ramon Paje
Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources
Ad interim

2016–2017
Succeeded by
Roy Cimatu
Preceded by
Horacio C. Ramos
Chairperson of the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission
2010–
Incumbent