Launched as part of the agreement between Foundation for the Philippine Environment (FPE) and the Philippine Tropical Forest Conservation Foundation (PTFCF)1 to facilitate collaboration between them and their partners in areas of mutual interest in the Philippines, and to make available resources for projects that they will co-finance, the EnDefense Program is a funding mechanism for litigation and related legal actions that seek to protect the country's environment and natural resources. The program supports cases that have a direct link to or impact on environmental conservation and protection. Specifically, support is given to cases that pursue legal sanctions against environmental law violators, and those that seek to question, or defend, the constitutionality or validity of laws and policy issuance that affect the rights of communities, or that have a significant impact on environmental protection. As Administrator of the EnDefense Program, the ALG holds the funds, receives and processes proposals for funding support, disburses funds for approved proposals, and monitors project implementation and funds usage.
After the completion of three phases, the EnDefense program has proven its value as a unique and innovative program that has ably supported strategic litigation for the environment. To date, it remains the only program of its kind that provides funding support for the filing of cases to protect forests, biodiversity areas, environmental defenders, and the country’s natural resources, in general. Through the EnDefense program, the partners, ALG, FPE and PTFCF, made a significant contribution to the enhancement of accessibility of quality legal assistance and representation to communities that encounter issues concerning environmental destruction, both actual and threatened.
With the funding window for litigation as its main thrust, the EnDefense program has supported more than forty (40) actual cases in three phases. These cases cover different environmentally critical and biodiversity areas in the Philippines – forests, mangroves, watersheds, rivers, ancestral domains and other natural resources. The EnDefense program’s litigation support component has proved to be a very valuable element for local communities’ defense of the environment against all sorts of violations and aggressions in different areas of the country.
The strategic value of EnDefense goes beyond the actual support for litigation or legal action. The ability to pursue cases has inspired communities, and strengthened their collective resolve to defend the environment against violators and aggressors. Even before favorable actions are obtained from the courts and other government agencies through the cases, the community defense of the environment is fortified. By enabling communities to take legal action, EnDefense has greatly contributed to the empowerment of these communities as they protect their rights and defend the natural resources in their areas. From its launch in July 2008, the EnDefense program has served as a facilitator that links available legal support to communities that face issues concerning the environment.
The EnDefense program’s popularization component has significantly contributed to the dissemination of information about the Supreme Court’s new rules, in a way that has a bias for the communities’ ability to use the rules to (1) assert the community’s environmental rights; (2) pursue legal sanctions against environmental law violators; (3) protect the community and its members, or government enforcers, from SLAPP suits (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) or harassment suits; and (4) remedy violations of human rights related to environmental protection. The policy component, for its part, was able to achieve the desired goal of making the EnDefense program more strategic and holistic, by complementing its support to litigation with engagement in policy reform work. In recognition of the reality that environmental case litigation is ultimately affected not only by court procedures and rules, but, more significantly, by the substantive policies that are legislated by the Congress, or issued through the rule-making powers of the Executive, EnDefense has actively supported the engagement of the ALG and its partner organizations and communities in the discourse on policies relevant to environmental protection. The policy reform component has enabled the EnDefense program to successfully act as catalyst and facilitator in coordinating the key policy advocacies for the environment.