Gina Lopez 'flew, soared' for the environment, says ex-cabinet colleague
MANILA -- The late Gina Lopez is a "maverick" who protected the environment and the underprivileged, a former Cabinet colleague said Tuesday, as supporters mourned her passing.
The former environment secretary's favorite song, the inspirational anthem "I Believe I Can Fly," reflects her personality, former social welfare secretary Judy Taguiwalo said.
"She flew, she soared and we appreciated what she has done in the short time that she was secretary and we are happy to be a colleague of hers," Taguiwalo said.
Taguiwalo said she would never forget how passionate and articulate Lopez was, when as environment secretary, she presented to the Cabinet the devastation wrought by mining on the environment.
"At the same time, she provided clear alternatives that we can develop our country side, our rural areas without destroying the environment. For that, she was praised by the President at the time," Taguiwalo said.
Lopez "stood her ground" during Cabinet debates on mining and was "really passionate and concerned about the environment, and really persistent and determined to protect the mountains, to protect our water sources, to protect our indigenous peoples," Taguiwalo said.
Anti-mining advocate Jaybee Garganera of Alyansa Tigil Mina said his group found a "passionate leader at the top" during Lopez's stint at the DENR.
"We still treat that 10 months along the realm of a dream," Garganera said in the same interview.
"Unfortunately, that promise of change was cut short and you know her rejection of the Commission on Appointments doesn't mean she's not fit to be DENR secretary," he said.
As DENR secretary, Lopez ordered the closure or suspension of 28 mines for violation of environment laws, following an industry-wide audit. She also threatened to cancel 75 contracts for upcoming projects.