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FPE Assessing Its 21 Years’ Contributions to Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Development

Posted on March 23, 2013

Recognized as the country’s first and largest grant-making institution for civil society environmental initiatives, the Foundation for the Philippine Environment (FPE) reached a new milestone in 2013 coinciding with its 21st year of funding biodiversity conservation and sustainable development causes.

FPE’s financial and technical assistance went primarily to protecting local conservation sites and strengthening community and grassroots-led environmental efforts. FPE has completed programs in 16 sites across the archipelago while currently operating in 8 conservation areas and about to enter 15 other environmental hotspots and wildlife sanctuaries—including critical watersheds and protected areas. It is helping conserve forests as well within the ancestral domains of indigenous peoples (IPs), who are the real caretakers or traditional managers of natural resources. FPE has also backed both legal and paralegal citizen actions against violators of environmental laws.

In parallel with site-focused defense of the environment, FPE has made its voice heard as an advocate for national policies and contributor to local development plans to prevent further environmental degradation and protect endangered habitats. Recently, it helped convince the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to propagate only native or indigenous tree varieties for the government’s five-year (2012-2016) National Greening Program, having cited how biodiversity of local forests was under threat from exotic trees. Furthermore, FPE has called for the critical review of existing laws and policies on mining and recommended an independent monitoring of mining concessions and reported environmental violations in mining sites. Through its 2012 National and Regional Environmental Agenda (NEA/REA), drafted by over 100 stakeholders from diverse professional, social and cultural backgrounds, FPE makes a concrete stand on urgent environmental concerns including logging, mining, unsustainable agriculture and fisheries, renewable energy, solid waste and air pollution, climate change, disaster risk reduction, urbanization and the conversion of agricultural lands.

FPE in fact traces its inception to converging social issues and events in the early 1990s: persistent poverty that clouded gains from a reinstated Philippine democracy; mounting foreign debt of many developing countries; the plunder of forest and marine resources worldwide prompting debates over the link between the environment and development; and the historic Rio de Janeiro UN Summit in 1992, which also launched a global biodiversity conservation agenda. At home, the establishment of FPE on January 15, 1992 was meant to abate the destruction of the country’s own natural resources. As many as 334 NGOs and grassroots organizations, along with 24 academic institutions, helped set its course through a nationwide consultative process. Subsequently, Philippine and US government agencies and NGOs raised the foundation’s initial $21.8-million endowment through an innovative “debt-for-nature swap” where creditors agreed to forgive debts in return for the promise to protect tropical forests, other fragile ecosystems and wildlife.

Citing a healthy track record and financial status, Board of Trustees chairman Nestor Carbonera said FPE was well positioned to “aggressively pursue collaboration in the environmental arena, mindful of sustainable development’s goal to be inclusive and pro-poor.” He sees FPE becoming a bigger player in the environmental management field; a key partner of other donors including the business sector; and a reliable source of rich, well-documented experiences in the areas of nature conservation and enabling community and grassroots environmental groups.

Recently, FPE and the University of the Philippines Los Baños Foundation, Inc. (UPLBFI) forged a partnership to do a rigid assessment of FPE’s successes as a grant-maker, fund facilitator and catalyst for cooperation in the past two decades or so.

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