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Former DENR Secretary Gina Lopez Dies at 65


By Marcelle P. Villegas


Filipino philanthropist, environmentalist, and former DENR Secretary Ms Gina Lopez died on Monday (19 August 2019) due to multiple organ failure at age 65. She served as DENR Secretary under the Duterte administration from 30 June 2016 - 3 May 2017.


Prior to her government service, she was active in Corporate Responsibility Programs for the environment and alleviation of poverty.


Ms Lopez was born on 27 December 1953. She is the second of seven children of ABS-CBN Chairman Emeritus Eugenio "Geny" Lopez, Jr. and Conchita La'O. She was born from an affluent family but she always had a heart for the marginalised in society. [1]


She was the Managing Director of the ABS-CBN Foundation which launched the "Bantay Bata 163" Program in 14 February 1997. This is the Philippines' first hotline against child abuse. The project established the Bantay Bata Centers which are police-protected facilities that served as temporary sanctuary for children who are victims or witnesses of crime. These shelters provide medical assistance and counselling for the abused or traumatised children.


She called the Bantay Bata Program as “a gift of love to Filipino children.” [2]


If you are a young Filipino geologist or engineer, perhaps you remember learning about science and math early as a child from a local TV show called "Sineskwela". In 1994 - 2004, Ms Lopez produced education television programs for children, like "Sineskwela" in partnership with the Science Education Institute of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and Department of Education (DepEd).


Moreover, as part of her advocacy to help the poor, she promoted micro-entrepreneurship, Filipino's bayanihan or volunteer spirit in support of medical mission, feeding programs for children in public schools, and various outreach projects for the less fortunate. [2]


Ms Lopez is well-known for being an environmental activist. She established the "Bantay Kalikasan", the environmental arm of the ABS-CBN Foundation. This project championed the rehabilitation of the 2,700-hectare La Mesa Watershed and the development of the La Mesa Eco-Park. The La Mesa Eco-Park is forest and nature sanctuary in Metro Manila -- a family-friendly place where city-dweller can experience being close to nature and do outdoor trekking and sports in a forest without leaving the city. This is a form of direct education that fosters internalising the importance of environmental protection.


In an interview with Earth Island Journal, Lopez said cleaning the environment also has “a direct impact on human consciousness.” [2]


“In areas where I’ve cleaned up the creeks and made the place more beautiful, 97 percent of the people have more peace of mind, 97 percent of people are happier,” she said. “When you’re stressed, you go to a place which is beautiful and healing and peaceful.” She stated that it can also have an economic impact as communities are able to earn from eco-tourism. [2]


In August 2010, Ms Lopez was appointed by Former Philippine President Benigno Aquino III as head of the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission. This river rehabilitation project, in cooperation with other agencies, assisted in relocating informal settlers by the river and helped in reviving the Pasig River ferry service of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA). [2]


She has always been advocating healthy lifestyles which is prominent in her environmental TV show "G Diaries" on ABS-CBN. Ms Lopez owns a social enterprise through a brand called "G Stuff" that sells organic product manufactured by local rural communities which she supports.


"Gina Lopez was a champion for the environment, child protection, and the disadvantaged. She exemplified a life of service to humanity with a deep desire to improve people’s lives, rallied for social justice, and sought to bring hope and change to poor communities," a statement made by ABS-CBN Foundation. [3]


Ms Lopez was awarded the United Nations Grand Awardee for Excellence in 1997 for Bantay Bata 163. She also received the Outstanding Manilans Awards for the Environment (2009) and UNESCO Kalinga Award where she is the first Southeast Asian to receive this prestigious award [4]


"Paradise is not made of buildings. Paradise is made of people loving each other and living with values," Gina Lopez.


Reference:

[1] Davila, Karen. (19 August 2019). ANC-News.

[2] Sabillo, Kristine. (19 August 2019). "PROFILE: Gina Lopez, Earth Warrior". ABS-CBN News. Retrieved from - https://news.abs-cbn.com/news/08/19/19/gina-lopez-earth-warrior-dies-at-65

[3] (19 August 2019). "Gina Lopez dies at 65". ABS-CBN News. Retrieved from -

https://news.abs-cbn.com/life/08/19/19/gina-lopez-dies-at-65

[4] Gina Lopez - Wikipedia.org

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