SOPHIE MORLIN-YRON talks to activist and former Philippine environment secretary Gina Lopez about banning open-pit mines, battling climate change and winning the 2017 Seacology Prize
Comprising some 7,000 islands in the tropical Western Pacific, the Philippines prides itself as one of the most biodiverse places on earth. Among the archipelago’s many endemic species are several flying frogs, the Philippine mouse deer and the endangered Philippine eagle, also called the monkey-eating eagle.
Its atolls and turquoise waters hide natural treasures too. For example, the spectacular Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, a World Heritage Site, is 130,028 hectares of beautiful lagoons and coral islands where rare birds and marine turtles come to nest.
“We are a country of beautiful volcanoes, mountains, rivers, and corals. It’s absolutely spectacular,” says Regina ‘Gina’ Lopez, who was the winner of the 2017 Seacology Prize in recognition of her environmental advocacy, which among many other things has led to a ban on open-pit mining.
“Putting these open pits in a place a beautiful as the Philippines is disgustingly horrible. If you have any sense of aesthetics, how can you do that! And when you learn that there are communities there whose lives have been disadvantaged, your heart breaks,” Lopez said.
The $10,000 prize is awarded each year by Seacology, a California-based conservation organisation, to someone who has shown exceptional achievement in preserving island environments and culture.