Former Filipino environment minister dies at 65

Celebrated anti-mining activist Regina Paz Lopez loses long battle against brain cancer
Former Filipino environment minister dies at 65

Former Philippine environment secretary Regina Paz Lopez closes her eyes in prayer during a church-sponsored activity in 2017. (Photo by Angie de Silva) reporter, Manila
August 19, 2019
A celebrated environmental activist who fought for an end to mining operations in the Philippines died on Aug. 19 after a long bout with brain cancer. She was 65 years old.

Regina Paz Lopez, known as a strong advocate of children’s welfare and environmental protection, once served as head of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

During her short stint as head of the department, Lopez vowed to use Pope Francis' encyclical on climate change, Laudato Si', as a guide in implementing laws to protect the environment.

She initiated projects to protect marine and forest biodiversity and tried to stop big mining operations, saying that the interests of the people were "non-negotiable."

Church leaders decried the decision by legislators in 2017 to remove Lopez as environment secretary after only having served ten months in office.

Jesuit priest, Joel Tabora, president of Ateneo de Davao University, called her removal a "national disaster."

He described the environmental activist as "one of the greatest environmentalists of our day."

During her short stint in government, Lopez ordered the closure of 29 out of 41 mines in the Philippines for damaging watersheds and for the siltation of coastal waters and farmland.

The move caused an outcry within the mining industry.

"I have a bias for social justice and common good," she was quoted as saying.

In a statement, the presidential palace said it "deeply grieves" the death of Lopez "whose environmental advocacy and legacy remains unparalleled to this day."

Activist group Bayan paid tribute to Lopez, describing her as a "steadfast protector of nature and the vulnerable."

"In her short time at the [Environment Department], she showed how much work could be done if there's clear resolve," said the group.

The group Alyansa Tigil Mina said Lopez was "a bastion of environmental activism, and a source of hope and inspiration for many communities."

Before she died, Lopez hosted "G Diaries," a television show where she promoted sustainable tourism.

The second of seven children of television mogul Eugenio Lopez, Jr. and Conchita La’O, Lopez was born on Dec. 27, 1953.

She earned her college degree at Assumption College and Newton College of the Sacred Heart in Boston. She received her master’s degree in Development Management from the Asian Institute of Management in the Philippines.

At 18, Lopez left her life of privilege to become an Ananda Marga yoga missionary. After serving in Portugal and India, she spent 11 years in Africa.

When she returned to Manila after 20 years of missionary work, she devoted her time to social causes.

In 1994, Lopez assumed the leadership of her family's ABS-CBN Foundation.

Among her many pioneering projects and programs, was Bantay Bata 163, which rescues child victims of domestic violence. She called it a "gift of love to Filipino children."

In 1997, Bantay Bata 163 won the United Nations Grand Awardee for Excellence and bested 187 countries from around the world.

In a statement, broadcast giant ABS-CBN called Lopez a “pillar of strength that pushed [ABS-CBN Foundation Inc.] to achieve what seemed to be impossible."

"Her caring heart and selfless kind of love inspired people within and beyond the organization to help and serve others," the statement read.

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