Most Distinguished Awardee (Posthumous Award)
Regina Paz “Gina” Lopez dedicated her life in serving the people and the environment. Her environmental crusade is widely regarded through the enduring work of the ABS-CBN Lingkod Kapamilya Foundation, Inc. – Bantay Kalikasan and her fearless stint as Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
Gina founded the program Bantay Kalikasan in 1999 which advocates for the protection of the environment. It would later be known for its successful reforestation of the La Mesa Watershed and the rehabilitation of the Pasig River. She was then appointed in 2010 as the chairperson of the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission.
When Gina was appointed as DENR secretary in June 2016, her maverick leadership quickly led to the audit and subsequent closing of 23 mines, suspension of 5 more, and cancellation of 75 mining permits that were found to have violated various regulations and laws. She also issued Department Administrative Orders banning prospective open pit mines and giving solely the DENR secretary the authority to issue Environmental Compliance Certificates (ECC). She also cancelled at least 6 ECCs previously granted to environmentally-critical projects, including a reclamation project in Manila Bay, due to their potential harm to the environment.
Gina’s bold and progressive actions as environment secretary was lauded and supported by numerous civil society organizations and local communities alike but was met with staunch disapproval from the affected industries and businesses, including their associates in the government. In May 2017, the Commission on Appointments formally rejected her ad-interim position in the DENR.
Gina continued her dedication to service mainly through her show G Diaries wherein she focused on environmental conservation, area development, and innovations to help local communities across the country. Also included in the programs she pioneered were the well-renowned Bantay Bata 163 and Educational Television (ETV). She passed away in August 2019 due to multiple organ failure.
Tireless in promoting the people’s sustainable and harmonious beneficence from the environment, Gina will always be remembered as a sterling ally of the people and a powerful environment defender to be reckoned with.