Environmental groups pay tribute to Gina Lopez on her first death anniversary

Green organizations on Thursday lauded the life and work of Gina Lopez anew and called on the country’s current environment authorities to emulate her leadership amid a worsening ecological crisis.

     In commemoration of the environmentalist’s first death anniversary, Center for Energy Ecology, and Development (CEED), Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM), Bantay Kita (BK), Green Thumb Coalition (GTC), and Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ) held “A Webinar in Tribute to Sec. Gina Lopez: Remembering Her Legacy amid Today’s Ecological Crisis.”

     “Sec. Gina Lopez was an environment and people’s champion. For decades, destructive companies like those in the mining and dirty energy industries seemed invincible owing to their influence and wealth accumulated at the expense of the environment and people’s well-being. Yet Sec. Gina was unfazed in setting policies and issuing orders that prioritize the protection of the environment and the people even until today. The doors of the DENR during her time as Secretary were always wide open for vulnerable peoples victimized by environmental degradation and development aggression,” said Avril De Torres, Research, Policy, and Law Program Head of CEED.

     A long-time environmental advocate, Lopez was appointed as Secretary of the DENR in 2016, a position which she used to staunchly advocate 100% renewable energy in the country, close or suspend law-violating mines, and ensure that voices of indigenous communities are heard and considered in policy decisions. While this stint was cut short due to the fierce lobbying of mining companies whose destructive operations were hampered by her strict regulation, Lopez carried on with her civic environment and community involvements.

     “On the occasion of her first death anniversary, we find ourselves in the midst of a pandemic that is largely caused by abusive practices to the environment and wildlife. Today, as we recall Sec. Gina’s legacy, we realize how starved we are for  true public servants. It is frustrating that our leaders today seem bent on reversing the positive impacts of Sec. Gina’s policies and projects,” said De Torres.

     Last month, the DENR led by current Secretary Roy Cimatu announced that it will be allowing mining companies suspended or shut down by Lopez to resume operations after they complied with ‘corrective measures.’ Energy policymakers meanwhile predict the continued dominance of coal in the country in the next decades and have also begun exploring other detrimental sources such as nuclear, both of which were heavily opposed by Lopez.

     “Today, we gather not only to commemorate Sec. Gina’s life but also to issue our collective statement that environmental groups and communities across the country will be sure to continue her legacy. In the face of widespread human suffering, poverty, and environmental destruction, we simply will not stand back,” said De Torres.