Keeping the flame alive. Lighting the torches are DOST Region II Director Virginia Bilgera, DOST CAR
Director Nancy Bantog, DOST Region I Director Armando Ganal, Undersecretary for Regional
Operations Engr. Sancho Mabborang, DOST Region III Director Julius Caesar Sicat, Undersecretary
for Research and Development,Dr. Rowena Cristina Guevara, and DOST-NRCP Executive Director
The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) conducted the Science for Change Program (S4CP) Summit on May 13, 2022, at Newtown Plaza Hotel, Baguio City. Coming from its kick-off last week in Bacolod City, the second leg of the summit aimed to showcase the S4CP-funded projects from the North Luzon Region. With the theme, “Science for Change is Science for the People,” the event showcased positive changes in institutions, industries, and communities from the four (4) subcomponents 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).
“For the past six years, DOST endeavors to significantly accelerate science, technology, and innovation in the country through a massive increase in investment in the S&T human resource development and research and development (R&D),” said DOST Secretary Fortunato T. de la Peña. He added that the S4CP allows the undertaking of relevant and meaningful R&D in NICERs that are at par with international research institutes. Through these centers, there will be a continuing increase in technology-based and value-adding business investments, both foreign and domestic, due to a conducive STI-supported economic environment.
DOST Undersecretary for Regional Operations Sancho A. Mabborang remarked, "The DOST – Regional Offices champions the banner projects for the Science for Change Program. Having been from the region myself, I am fully aware of the capacities that we can maximize in the commercialization of the results of our R&D activities in the countryside. We are perennially one with the regions when it comes to bringing S&T to our people on the ground.”
"R&D investments in the region are essential to address regional disparity in R&D funding and will drive industry growth all over the country,” underscored DOST Undersecretary for Research and Development Rowena Cristina L. Guevara. “Bringing opportunities to key industry players in the Regions levels the playing field in the development of the STI landscape in the country,” added Undersecretary Guevara.
The NICER Program provides grants to higher education institutions (HEIs) to undertake collaborative research that promotes regional development. There are 42 NICERs established across 17 regions with Php 2.23 B approved grants. From the total NICER grants, Php 450 M or 20% were granted to North Luzon HEIs, one of which is the Freshwater Fisheries Center in Isabela State University with an approved grant of Php 22.5 M. The project involves R&D for the management of the indigenous fisheries resources of the Cagayan Valley Region with emphasis on the high valued species, lobed river mullet or Ludong and freshwater eels that are present in the Cagayan River system. This NICER will focus on developing artificial breeding and culture techniques for these species with information on their natural habitats to determine options for their management.
The CRADLE Program for Academe, Research Development Institutions (RDIs), and Industry aims to provide industries with the appropriate R&D to solve their problems. To date, 86 projects with Php 388.6 M approved budget have been implemented by 36 HEIs and 87 Industry Partners across 10 Regions. For North Luzon, a total of Php 37.9 M was granted to nine academe-industry collaborations. One of these collaborations is with the EDCOR Multipurpose Cooperative, a cassava business in San Guillermo, Isabela. Farmer-members of EDCOR have experienced low quality cassava harvests and one of the reasons identified is disease-infection in cassava plantations, which directly affected the quality of the produce. Through the Demeter’s Eyes project, undertaken by Isabela State University, an embedded system for smart detection, recognition, and mapping of Cassava Phytoplasma Disease (CPD) in cassava plants and was developed with a budget of Php 5 M. The monitoring results of the CPD-infected cassava plants can be used by cassava farmers to immediately isolate the infected plants to avoid possible spread to other areas of plantation.
To date, there is no approved BIST project in North Luzon. The Business Innovation through S&T (BIST) for Industry encourages private companies to invest in R&D through acquisition of strategic and relevant equipment or technologies. “I encourage all local companies from CAR, Regions I, II, and III to avail the financial assistance from BIST,” mentioned Undersecretary Guevara.
Meanwhile, the R&D Leadership (RDLead) Program capacitates host institutions by sending them an R&D expert who can guide them in bringing out the potential or latent talents of universities, researchers, and research personnel. In the Cordillera Region, Dr. Ronald T. Del Castillo, consultant of the World Food Programme, is the RDLeader in Saint Louis University (SLU). He is a consultant in the United Nations World Food Programme (Philippines). He is the team lead on research about developing and applying social and behavioral communication tool in improving food and nutrition-related behaviors, including Indigenous Peoples (IP) and in the DOST-PCHRD- funded research on mobile mental health. His expertise in public and mental health guided the faculty and staff of the Saint Louis University (SLU) in crafting their research program proposal on mental health in the Cordillera Region.
Undersecretary Guevara further stressed that it is important to sustain the R&D initiatives and undertakings with the stakeholders in all regions. “Through the S4CP Bill, we can ensure that research studies and results propagate society-centric solutions that benefit the Filipinos,” Undersecretary Guevara ended.