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Former Filipino environment minister dies at 65

MANILA (UCAN): Regina Paz Lopez, the one time head of the Philippines’ Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and a strong advocate of children’s welfare and environmental protection, died on August 19 after a long battle with brain cancer. She was 65-years-old.
 
During her short stint as head of the department, Lopez vowed to use Pope Francis’ encyclical, 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.”
 
Legislators moved to remove Lopez as environment secretary in 2017 after only 10 months in office. Church leaders decried the decision.
 
Jesuit Father Joel Tabora, president of Ateneo de Davao University, called her removal a “national disaster.” He described the environmental advocate as “one of the greatest environmentalists of our day.”
 
During her time 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.”
 
Advocacy group, Bayan, paid tribute to Lopez describing her as a “steadfast protector of nature and the vulnerable,” adding, “In her short time at the (Environment Department), she showed how much work could be done if there’s clear resolve.” 
 
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.
 
Lopez was born on 27 December 1953, the second of seven children of media mogul, Eugenio Lopez, Jr., and Conchita La’O.
 
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-years-old, 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, she assumed the leadership of her family’s ABS-CBN Foundation.
 
Among her many pioneering projects and programmes, 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.”
 
It said, “Her caring heart and selfless kind of love inspired people within and beyond the organization to help and serve others.” 

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