Minister who stood up to mining industry dies

Gina Lopez gesturing during an interview in 2017Image copyright
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Gina Lopez spoke out against deforestation and mining in the Philippines

Staunch eco-campaigner and former Philippine Environment Minister Gina Lopez has died at the age of 65.

She was known for her strong stance against mining, closing down many of the country’s quarries during her ten months in office in 2016.

Ms Lopez was also an advocate for children’s rights and protection.

ABS-CBN, the broadcasting company her family founded, said she was a “pillar of strength”.

She was chair of the company’s social development organisation.

“Her caring heart and selfless kind of love inspired people within and beyond the organisation to help and serve others,” ABS-CBN said in a statement.

What was she known for?

Serving under President Rodrigo Duterte’s government, Gina Lopez led a crackdown on mining in a country known for its nickel ore production.

Lopez closed 23 mines and suspended five others, as well as banning open-pit mining.

A campaign followed, led by the country’s mining industry, which argued the move threatened the lives of some 1.2 million people who depended on the industry.

A congressional committee rejected her appointment as environment secretary and she was forced to step down after 10 months in the role.

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Gina Lopez burst into a rendition of R Kelly’s I Believe I Can Fly after her appointment was rejected

Many of the mines then resumed and Gina Lopez later referred to her time in the post as “painful”.

“I really do sincerely hope something can be done about the destruction that mining brings on,” she said in a Facebook post in July, while in the grip of what she referred to as a “health crisis”.

She died from multiple organ failure but the cause of this has not been confirmed.

According to Senator Bam Aquino, a Filipino politician and social entrepreneur, Gina Lopez “created generations of environmental warriors and inspired Filipinos to unite for a common cause”.

Gina Lopez was the second of seven children and her family founded the broadcasting cooperation ABS-CBN before it was captured by the military under the rule of the dictator, Ferdinand Marcos, in the 1970s.

As a teenager, Gina Lopez left the Philippines to study in the United States, before working as a yoga missionary in Portugal, India and Africa.

“I lived as the poor lived, so I learned how not to be wasteful – a trait I carry to this day where I use every bit of everything,” she wrote in an essay in 2016, according to ABS-CBN.

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The former environment secretary launched a reforestation programme in the Philippines

“It is in Africa that I learned the quality of persistence,” she added. “Hardship has its value.”

“At an age when people are just figuring out what they want to do in life, she already knew her purpose,” said her cousin Mark Lopez, chairman of ABS-CBN. “She left a comfortable life to devote her time and energy to help uplift other people’s lives.”

Gina Lopez also campaigned against child abuse, setting up a rescue hotline for children in Asia.

“We will miss Gina’s light, as a private person, as a leader, and as a crusader,” Mark Lopez added.

“While she left us a void that cannot be filled, we take comfort in knowing that with love, like she had shown us, there remains hope and beauty in the world we live in.”

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Media captionIn 2014, Gina Lopez led a clean-up effort in the Philippines capital of Manila

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