By José Abeto Zaide
The ill-starred stint of Gina Lopez as environment secretary came to its predictable end when the Commission on Appointments rejected her appointment with finality on the third hearing last 3 May.
Senators who voted for Lopez’s confirmation said they were saddened but they respect the decision of the majority. Senate Minority Floor Leader Franklin Drilon said the Liberal Party voted as a bloc for Lopez’s confirmation. Senator Loren Legarda, an environment advocate, said: “It is unfortunate that we let pass an opportunity for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to be led by someone who has the passion, integrity, and political will to implement our environmental laws.” Some others shed crocodile tears.
MOUNTAIN COMES TO MOHAMMED. Because she isn’t one to sulk and lick her wounds, friends and detractor have not seen the end of Gina Lopez. On 5 October, Regina Paz Lopez was conferred the 2017 Seacology Prize at the David Bower Center in Berkeley, California, for her work protecting the unique habitats and cultures of islands. But as a notable exception and to manifest their esteem for this year’s awardee, the Seacology Founder and Chair Dr. Paul Cox, the Vice Chair Ken Murdock and the Executive Director Duane Silverstein flew in to honor the 26th prize awardee in her home country. I cull from the words on the conferment which read:
“It take uncommon bravery to speak out for conservation. Powerful interests often oppose people who defend their island’s environment. Every Seacology Prize recipient faced resistance, personal sacrifice and risk.
“The first prize winner Chief Ulu of Samoa was protecting his village ancestral rainforest and resisted pressure from logging companies. Last year’s winner from Honduras became even more committed after another environmental activist was assassinated in her country. In Madagascar, against mining and longing interests, another prize recipient scraped money to buy bits of land to preserve his own nature preserve. The Japanese recipient endured harsh circumstances from his community when he proposed putting a stop to logging in nearby forest.
“Gina Lopez’s circumstances are unique and stand out when compared to many former recipients . She has been fortunate to have the benefits of education and opportunity. But she has used those advantages to speak and act for people who are not as fortunate. People without a voice, whose environmental circumstances and way of life are threatened.
“That said, Gina Lopez has much in common with other Seacology Prize recipients. Like them, she cares deeply about protecting island environments. Like them, she has stepped up to take action, and has stood up to powerful interests. And like them, she has demonstrated passion, persistence and courage.
“This year, we are very pleased to award the 2017 Seacology Prize to Gina Lopez, for her extensive work in protecting the culture and environment of the Philippines.”
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Gina’s first act on receiving the award was to match the prize money to double the energy towards preserving island environment and culture. She feels that it is not reaching for the stars…when so much of the resources are endemic. She ticked off some of nature’s blessings on Philippine flora species preempted by foreign interests:
Patented by Yves St. Laurent: Ilang-Ilang, source of perfume and exported to Europe.
Patented by Japan: Nata de coco; Sarong, Lagunen and Takipkuhol (Centella Asiatisch); Saluyot, as anti-stress Tablet; Banaba (Lagerstroemia Speciosa) for fever, diarrhea,diabetes and purgative (Japanese firm Itoen KK).
Patented by USA: Philippine sea snail (onus Magus) source of toxin SNX 111, a pain killer more powerful than morphine (NeurexCorp.); Philippine tee tree (Taxis Sumatrana),source of cancer-curing Taxol (University of Philadelphia); Ampalaya, Vitamin A-richvegetble; Ampalaya mixed with eggplant as cure for diabetes (Cromak Research Inc).
In accepting the prize, Gina Lopez said, “The Philippines is a country of 7,107 islands, and I hope this award will affect the entire country. And because the Philippines has so many diverse ecosystems, and so many animals and plants found nowhere else, saving our islands has direct global impact as well.”
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BLUE EAGLE WOUNDED. Despite wangling front-seat tickets at the Smart-Araneta Dome, Oscar Violago missed the deciding Ateneo vs. De La Salle game finals. Sticks and stones can break his bones, and physician Dr. Ignacio compares his accident to a major motoring smash-up. But the worst is over, other than his arm in a sling. Instead of falling on his face. Oca was cushioned by his aide who goes by the name of guardian angel Michael. A Te Deum mass was offered by Fr. Anthony Ynzon, SVD, for this miraculous escape through the intervention of Mama Mary and St. Joseph.
CLASS ACT. We cheered hoarse for our team (from our 50-inch telly view) without adding an iota to the deafening decibels at Smart-Araneta. A steely Isaac Go converted Thirdy Ravena’s back pass for a trey insurance, 85-80. Yet never-say-die Green Archers could have tied an extension with Aljun Melecio’s last-second mid-court trey – (had Blue Eagle Matt Nieto not earlier converted his two charities). Game ended with Ateneo wining, 88-86. But De La Salle president Br. Raymundo B. Suplido, FSC, showed the Jesuits style by bathing the Taft Avenue school façade with blue lights in tribute to the winner.