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Gina Lopez wins Seacology award

MANILA, Philippines — Former environment secretary Gina Lopez has been awarded the 2017 Seacology Prize for her continuing advocacy to protect the environment despite powerful opposition from certain quarters.

Now on its 27th year, Seacology awards the $10,000 prize to someone who has shown exceptional achievement in preserving island environments and culture.

“Gina Lopez has shown the vision and courage the Seacology Prize is meant to honor,” Seacology executive director Duane Silverstein said. “She has fought for the Philippine environment and gave island communities there a voice in the decisions that affect their natural resources and their lives.”

For more than 15 years, Lopez has been an outspoken champion of social and environmental causes in the Philippines, including the rehabilitation of the Pasig River and nearby urban streams. Her efforts led to the cleanup of at least 17 tributaries in the Pasig river system.

She also led a campaign to save La Mesa watershed, a once-neglected area that contains the last remaining rainforest of its size in Metro Manila, which reservoir provides drinking water to 12 million people. La Mesa Ecopark is now a tree-lined park where urban dwellers can hike, fish, and ride mountain bikes or horses.

As leader of the Save Palawan Island movement, Lopez lobbied against the environmental ravages of mining on Philippine islands. Her stance drew angry criticism from the powerful mining sector.

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Criticism intensified in 2016, when Lopez became acting secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. She established the first-ever forum for consultations between the DENR and indigenous groups, and shut down illegal fish pens in the country’s largest lake. 

However, her strongest actions were directed at mining operations, especially heavily polluting nickel mines. She banned open-pit mines and moved to shut down more than half of the operations of the country’s mining companies.

These bold actions cost Lopez her job. 

“I am honored to receive an award for something I believe in and from an organization doing so much for island ecosystems,” said Lopez, initially awarded at Seacology head office in Berkeley, California last October.

She received the prize in the Philippines Monday night at the Makati Shangri-La.

 

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