Regina Paz “Gina” La’O López, the former environment secretary and a philanthropist, has died after a long battle with brain cancer at the age of 65.
López served as the first environment secretary for 10 months, until May 2017. While she was serving a brief stint as environmental chief, López swayed the mining industry and cracked down on industries that violated environmental laws.
She was also a chairperson of ABS-CBN Foundation Inc (AFI), a non-profit, non-governmental organization that is dedicated to improving the quality of lives of disadvantaged Filipino families in the Philippines and across the globe.
ABS-CBN said, “Gina was the pillar of strength that pushed AFI 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.”
“We lost a fervent advocate of children’s rights and protection, a passionate proponent of sustainable livelihood among the underprivileged, and an unswerving champion for environment preservation,” the organization added.
López was also a part of numerous projects and campaigns and projects, such as “Kapit Bisig Para sa Ilog Pasig,” “No To Mining in Palawan,” the reforestation of the La Mesa Watershed, and the “TV program G Diaries,” “all of which made a lasting impact on communities.”
The former environment secretary ordered the suspension or closure of some mining operations and even canceled some mineral production sharing agreements.
Her first message as environment secretary stated that none of the DENR’s decisions would put the Filipinos’ lives at stake. She said, “The best way to protect the environment is to improve people’s lives. That’s my experience.”
López had brain cancer and she was quite open about her condition. She used to give updates through her social media posts. “I am lying down having an infusion of 27000 IU of vitamin C for my immune system and feeling the healing of a LENYO mat for my health crisis and browsing through videos and I come across this and I remember my DENR days – and how painful it all was…I really do sincerely hope something can be done about the destruction that mining brings on,” said one of her Facebook posts.