Grassroots Leaders Gather in the Philippines

We are thrilled to report that our 2023 Annual Meeting was a big success. Roughly 100 ELAW partners from 40 countries gathered in Cebu, Philippines (June 26-29). They inspired each other with their innovative work to protect the climate, defend Indigenous rights, safeguard biodiversity, challenge fossil fuels and single-use plastic, hold polluters accountable, and much more.

“The pandemic prevented us from gathering this past three years, so seeing everyone in-person, including new faces—from the Maldives, Nepal, Cameroon—gave me a deep appreciation of the friendship and trust we’ve built over many years,” says ELAW Scientist Dr. Heidi Weiskel.

ELAW Team Members (from left): Dr. Melissa Garren, Dr. Heidi Weiskel, Kate Holcombe, Genee Mislang-Tomboc, Letícia Aleixo, Colleen Keane, and Alejandra Serrano Pavón coordinating during the Annual Meeting.

2023 ELAW Annual Meeting Co-Hosts

ELAW Attorney Genee Mislang-Tomboc says highlights of this year’s gathering were a field trip with local fishermen on the Bojo River, a visit to Hermit’s Cove for a discussion about the nearby Tañon Strait Protected Landscape, and a meeting with community members, and a site visit near polluting coal-fired power plants in Toledo City.

In her opening remarks, Gerthie Mayo-Anda, Executive Director of the Palawan-based Environmental Legal Assistance Center, said:

“Through the years, we have seen the displacement of women, children, indigenous peoples, farmers, and fishing communities by mining, corporate plantations, coal-fired power plants, reclamation, and destructive infrastructure projects. ELAW colleagues have undertaken strategic litigation, education, and policy advocacy work. They have enabled citizens and communities to participate in opportunities for good governance and compelled government authorities to do their job.”

This was the first ELAW Annual Meeting for Jimmy Munguriek Ufoy from Bunia in eastern Congo. “I learned that problems our communities face are similar to those faced by communities around the world. Learning how my new colleagues address these environmental threats was incredibly helpful,” Ufoy shared.

Following the Annual Meeting, ELAW Filipino partners co-hosted the first-ever Philippines Public Interest Environmental Law Conference (PIELC) in cooperation with UNEP’s Environmental Law and Governance for Asia and the Pacific program, the Forest Foundation Philippines (FFP), Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) Cebu Chapter, the Association of Law Students of the Philippines (ALSP), and the Asian Law Students’ Association (ALSA-Philippines). The ALSP and ALSA-Philippines plan to organize regular PIELCs in the future. 

Many thanks to Lolly Bisquera, Aaron Pedrosa, Jenny Ramos, Joy Argallon, Nikka Oquias, John Menguito, and the volunteers, law students, and paralegals who made the 2023 ELAW Annual Meeting possible.

Bern Johnson
Executive Director
Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide