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FPE @ 25: Celebrating Connectedness through Conservation

Posted on January 15, 2017

January 15, 2017—Twenty-five years ago today, the Foundation for the Philippine Environment (FPE) was established as the first grant-making institution to ensure biodiversity conservation and sustainable development in the country. Today, FPE founding partners, former trustees, staff, members of the Regional Advisory Committees (RAC) and Experts Advisory Pool (EAP), and partner NGOs gathered at the EDSA Shangri-la to celebrate two and half decades of fostering partnerships for the environment.

FPE was formed as a response to the alarming rate of environmental degradation in one of the world’s most biodiversity-rich countries. In 1988, forest cover had dwindled from twenty-seven million (90% original recorded forest cover) to just six million hectares. Lowland forests were rapidly disappearing, and mangrove forests being converted into fishponds, industrial areas, and human settlements. Emerging from decades of ecological neglect and the dark years of the Marcos dictatorship, civil society was finally able to participate in environmental governance. Through a “debt-for-nature” swap from the US government—a portion of the country’s foreign debt was converted into a fund devoted to environment conservation nationwide.

Grantmaker

FPE was established by and for Philippine NGOs, with initial financial and technical assistance from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) - US, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the Department of Finance (DOF), and the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP).

Representing FPE's founding partners: USAID - Mr. Jeremy Gustafson, Freedom from Debt Coalition - Mr. Samuel Gamboa, WWF - Mr. Jose Angelito Palma, CODE-NGO - Mr. Sixto Donato Macasaet, with FPE Chair & CEO Dr. Lourdes Simpol, and FPE Executive Director Oliver Agonciillo (Not in picture: PRRM, Green Forum, Mr. Sixto Roxas, Mr. Percy Sajise, Archdiocese of Cebu)

In 1994, the full US $21.8 M-fund was transferred to FPE, intended for community-based biodiversity conservation projects of non-government organizations (NGOs) and peoples organizations (POs) nationwide. Among the earliest grants were for protected area and Community-Based Resource Management (CBRM) projects implemented by Haribon Foundation, PBSP, Miriam College PEACE, and the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ). Through sustained support from the Foundation, NGOs could stimulate nationally-linked and long term, community-based biodiversity conservation programs.

Mr. Jeremy Gustafson, Office Chief for the Environment; and DENR Undersecretary Designate for Civil Society Nicanor Perlas

Catalyst for Cooperation

Apart from being a grantmaker, FPE continued to be a catalyst for developing consensus and cooperation, a means for coordination among NGOs, government, donors, private sector, and communities. FPE forged multi-sectoral strategic partnerships for joint initiatives in biodiversity conservation and sustainable development. Among the earliest partnerships resulted in the creation of a Secretariat for Capability Building of NGO and PO Cooperation in Sustainable Development with Focus on Biodiversity Conservation, as inputs to the Philippine Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD), and the Multi-sectoral Network for the Protection of Environmentally-critical Areas, in 1993. In 2011, FPE became a bonafide member of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). In 2016, after a joint-monitoring of the National Greening Program (NGP), along with the Rain Forest Restoration Initiative Network, FPE lobbied for DENR to phase out exotic trees in favor of native trees. 

Dr. Perry Ong, former FPE Vice-Chair, and Ms. Alma dela Paz, former FPE Chair on FPE's contributions to biodiversity conservation and CSO partnerships nationwide

Fund Facilitator

FPE links international organizations and funding institutions to local communities, providing a mechanism not only to fund biodiversity conservation, but strengthening capabilities and empowering NGOs, POs, IPOs—the frontliners in the communities. In 1994, FPE entered into a co-financing partnership with the MacArthur Foundation to foster community forestry in former timber-license agreement sites. In 1996, FPE partnered with the Philippine Development Assistance Program (PDAP) to jointly develop, fund and monitor projects focusing on the complementarity of lowland sustainable agriculture and upland biodiversity conservation.

In 2010, FPE engaged in the 4-year Mainstreaming Indigenous Peoples’ Participation in Environmental Governance project with the Philippine Association for Intercultural Development (PAFID), in coordination with the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), and funded by the EU and FUNDESO. The 4-year project aimed to capacitate IPs in managing their biodiversity-rich ancestral domains towards sustainable development and inclusive governance. That same year, Anthrowatch, in partnership with FPE, Non-Timber Forest Products Exchange Program (NTFP-EP), and Upholding Life and Nature (ULAN), implemented the 5-year Consolidating Indigenous Peoples Forest Corridors through Sustainable Ancestral Domain Management Project, to advance IP rights to self-governance through their ancestral domains. In 2011, FPE, with USAID, implemented the Up-Scaling Forest Restoration Efforts in Key Biodiversity Areas project, aimed at improving the conservation and management of CSO partners in 8 KBAs.  In 2016, FPE partnered with Globe Telecom to provide communications support to four hundred thirty-nine (439) forest guards in the same KBAs. FPE has also acted as NGO Responsible Party for the Global Environment Facility – United Nations Development Program 5th Small Grants Programme (GEF UNDP SGP5), monitoring community-based biodiversity conservation programs in Palawan, Sierra Madre, and Samar.

FPE ensures its grants respond to environment issues in its target sites, aided by its structure and processes. The Regional Advisory Committees (RACs): NGO, PO and IPO leaders who are the eyes and ears of the Foundation in the regions, and the Experts Advisory Pool (EAP): scientists, scholars, thought-leaders who have, for the last 25 years, advised the Foundation and shared their expertise and technical assistance in grants approval, and in operations.

FPE Trustees are sworn in by former FPE Chair & CEO, Dr. Paciencia Milan.

Roadmap to 2025

Since its founding, FPE has supported more than 800 NGOs, POs and IPOs in conserving biodiversity and sustaining communities in more than 70 critical sites, through more than 1,700 projects nationwide. Through grants, catalyzing cooperation, and marshaling resources from other donors, FPE rallies stakeholders to conserve resources to protect and rehabilitate ecosystems, sustain species, and achieve a healthy supply of ecosystem services that communities and economies need to thrive.

In its 25th year, FPE launches a 10-year strategic plan, with a renewed vision: “To be a dynamic, relevant and growing organization leading actions in biodiversity conservation and sustainable development toward healthy ecosystems and resilient communities.” 

As FPE celebrates this silver milestone, we gather all those who have been part of this growing family. "No single individual or institution alone can restore Philippine biodiversity to as close as to the natural state. Only by working together, in a spirit of transparency and cooperation, will the Philippines' biodiversity be conserved and sustainably used!" said Dr. Perry Ong, former FPE Vice Chair. With you, our partners in the mission, we continue to advocate for sustained partnerships for Philippine biodiversity and the environment, towards a shared future. 

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