Who is she?
Regina “Gina” P. Lopez is the chairperson of ABS-CBN Lingkod Foundation, the philanthropic wing of the Philippines’ ABS-CBN media corporation. Her work with the foundation has covered a number of environmental projects, including reforestation, river rehabilitation, and the promotion of ecotourism. She served as chairperson for the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission, a project of the Department of Energy and Natural Resources (DENR), under former president Benigno Aquino. Prior to this, Lopez worked for 20 years as a missionary in India, Portugal, and parts of Africa.
Why is she in the news?
President Rodrigo Duterte on June 30 appointed Lopez secretary of environment and natural resources. Under Lopez’s leadership, the DENR has embarked on a campaign to crack down on small-scale mining operations on grounds of environmental protection, a move that would significantly impact the Philippines’ gold production output. Lopez has also established a task force among several departments of government to enforce regulations on illegal mining and logging.
What can we expect from her?
Duterte has repeatedly declared large-scale mining operations that are environmentally destructive among his many targets. Yet he also said that environmental protection should not impede the Philippines’ industrial development—a reference to his disapproval of carbon emissions targets that the previous government agreed to under the Paris climate change accord last year.
Lopez, who was well known for her anti-mining advocacy throughout her career, will be Duterte’s spokesperson against the mining and extractive industries. At the same time, she will need to balance efforts to curb environmental degradation with the president’s commitment to promote industrial growth.