ELAC was formed in 1990 as a special project of the Protestant Lawyers’ League of the Philippines (PLLP). The country was still recovering from human rights abuses from the Marcos era, and the project was an effort to mobilize human rights lawyers for legal advocacy on behalf of communities affected by environmental problems. It was a response to the emerging challenge of environmental lawyering especially in the rural areas where environmental degradation is most felt.

From 1990 to 1993, ELAC was composed of a group of volunteer lawyers who participated in people’s monitoring teams, task forces, and environmental investigative missions in response to various development projects and environmental concerns.  ELAC also collaborated with various organizations in conducting environmental law seminars and paralegal trainings, and in forming coalitions/networks on environmental issues.

In 1994, ELAC organized a core of full-time staff, an office in Palawan, and coordinating sites in Cebu and Northern Leyte.  The following year, offices were established in Cebu and Leyte.  The Leyte office addressed environmental issues in Eastern Visayas, including Samar Island.  In 1996, ELAC established links with some lawyers in Bohol.  This paved the way for a Bohol office in 1997. In the same year, ELAC was duly registered as a non-profit, non-government organization in the Philippines’ Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Community-Based Resource Management (CBRM) was later developed as a long-term strategy to combat environmental problems and to help communities become managers of the resources in their localities.  ELAC began CBRM programs in Honda Bay and Coron, both in Palawan.  The CBRM projects in Bantayan, Cebu and in Mabini, Bohol followed afterwards.

In 1998, a satellite office was set up in Coron to make ELAC more accessible to the indigenous peoples living there. Satellite offices were likewise established in Mabini and in Salcedo, Eastern Samar in 2004 to be nearer to farmer and fisherfolk communities. Offices in Aklan and Pagadian were set up in 2003 to respond to requests for legal assistance in Western Visayas and Northern Mindanao. However, due to the unavailability of full-time lawyers, these last two areas are now being served by the main office based in Cebu.

Aside from work in central Philippines, ELAC also partners with institutions and offices in other regions of the country and, through its main office, has assisted communities and local governments as far north as Romblon in Luzon and as far south as Davao del Sur in Mindanao.

ELAC has been through a lot of organizational, financial and operational challenges but its vision, mission, goals, and programs keep the organization intact and alive, willing and ready to face other challenges ahead.  For as long as the environment is abused, and for as long as the community’s rights to a balanced and healthful ecology are violated and threatened, ELAC will continue its work of helping communities defend the earth.

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