Updated: May 6
Igniting the passion to serve and deliver STI services to the region. DOST-NRCP Dir. Marietta
Sumagaysay, DOST Region VII Assistant Regional Director Marilyn Radam, Undersecretary for
Research and Development Rowena Cristina L. Guevara, and DOST Region VI Regional Director
Rowen Gelonga lights the torch signifying the opening of the Science for Change Program
05 May 2022, Bacolod City – The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) provided funding for the agricultural, pharmaceutical, herbal supplement manufacturing, and regional science communities among the sectors in the Visayas Region that received funding from the Science for Change Program (S4CP). This was revealed during the kick off event held in Bacolod City in Negros Occidental, entitled: “Science for Change is Science for the People.” The summit highlighted positive changes brought about by the S4CP-funded projects in terms of regional development and industrial competitiveness from the lens of the researchers, beneficiaries, and stakeholders.
The summit is set to showcase the accomplishments of its four (4) subcomponent programs: 1) Niche Center in the Region for R&D Program (NICER), 2) Collaborative R&D to Leverage the Philippine Economy Program (CRADLE), 3) Business Innovation through S&T for Industry Program (BIST) and 4) R&D Leadership Program (RDLead) in all the regions in the country. For its first leg, the event featured programs/projects in the Visayas Cluster on Thursday, May 5, 2022 at the SEDA Hotel.
“We have come a long way in our efforts to ensure change through accelerating R&D in the country. With S4CP, R&D transforms communities through the projects that our various stakeholders are undertaking,” said DOST Secretary Fortunato T. de la Peña. “Our summit aims to boast the impacts of our different R&D undertakings. You will hear success stories straight from the project leaders, industry representatives, and beneficiaries themselves,” added de la Peña.
"Now that we have set the foundation of the Science for Change Program, let us sustain its traction and encourage more R&D participation from the various sectors, more importantly from the industry,” said DOST Undersecretary for Regional Operations Sancho A. Mabborang. “With more RDIs, SUCs, HEIs, and private firms engaged in research, we envision more society-centric solutions and demand-driven technology development initiatives thereby bringing S&T closer to every Filipino"
“Regional support is the key to national development. If we improve and empower our stakeholders in the regions, progress on a national scale follows,” explained Undersecretary for Research and Development Dr. Rowena Cristina L. Guevara.
Under the NICER Program, wherein grants are provided to qualified Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), 42 projects were established across 17 regions in the country with Php 2.23 billion approved grants implemented by 47 HEIs and Hospitals. Among the 42 NICERs is the establishment of the Eastern Visayas Center for Crustacean Research and Development at Samar State University (SSU). With the dwindling supply of crustaceans (crabs, shrimps, prawn), the center with now state-of-the-art facilities and technologies will immensely help the local government units (LGUs) of Eastern Visayas with the information and strategies for policy formulation in fisheries and aquatic resources management and sustainable utilization. Collaboration at this level guarantees socio-economic impact in the region.
The CRADLE Program on the other hand, is a collaboration between private companies and universities or research and development institutes (RDIs). Here, the industry identifies the problem while the HEIs or RDIs undertake R&D. To date, 86 projects with Php 388.6 M approved grants have been implemented by 36 HEIs and 87 Industry Partners across ten regions. In the Visayas, MCPI Corporation, a leading natural carrageenan manufacturer and exporter, partnered with the University of San Carlos (USC) to develop three product lines, namely Cold-soluble Powders, Bioplastic Sheets, and Bioactive Hydrogels. The results of the studies will help the industry design bioplastic with desired rigidity and strength, constitute powders that dissolve in tap water without heating, and prepare hydrogels for biomedical use.
In BIST, financial assistance to Filipino private companies is provided for the acquisition of strategic and relevant technologies for R&D. Currently, there are four BIST projects, with Php 43.3 M approved financial assistance. Herbanext, a 100% Filipino-owned company in Bago City, Negros Occidental, manufactures botanical ingredients, nutraceuticals, functional food products, herbal drugs and herbal cosmetics. The company received an interest free loan worth 11.7 M. Through the fund, the company acquired premier art extraction equipment and modern pilot scale machinery that allows increase in potency and therapeutic quality and reduces issues in shelf stability and microbial load, a problem common in manufacturing herbal products.
“Herbanext is more empowered to do more research and more confident in the quality and safety of our herbal products. In the not so distant future, we look forward to the export of world class Filipino Herbal Medicine,” testified Mr. Philip Cruz, President of Herbanext Laboratories, Inc.
Furthermore, addressing regional disparity does not only entail having R&D facilities and technologies, it also involves human resources. One of the sub-components of the S4CP is the RDLead Program which aims to develop and strengthen research capabilities of the academe and RDIs nationwide with innovative direction and leadership from local S&T experts. So far, we have a total of 65 RDLeaders engagements in 17 regions and 56 host institutions capacitated in research.
In Visayas, Dr. Esperanza Maribel Agoo of Bohol Island State University, an expert in Plant Taxonomy, Conservation, and Ecology shared, “There is a need to tap the university’s existing resources in manpower and facilities for them to gain more impactful researches. Notably, there is also a need for the institution to be more aware of the research priorities of funding agencies and for researchers to collaborate more among themselves and at the regional, national, and international level.”
The S4C Program opened the opportunities to research institutions and industries to invest in R&D to improve their processes, operations, and profits. With these R&D investments, Visayas sees industry revitalization and progress in aquaculture, pharmaceuticals, herbal supplement manufacturing, and other collaborative research and partnerships.
“We will continue capitalizing in R&D,” underscored Guevara, thus, the need to pass the S4CP Bill into law. The bill intends to support R&D initiatives that address the needs of the people. With the extensive collaboration and efforts, DOST hopes to continue delivering S4CP-funded projects all over the regions and support from stakeholders will ensure lasting change happens.