Relishing its accomplishments despite the many hurdles, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Secretary Fortunato T. de la Peña was elated to present the notable successes of the Science Department during the opening of the 2021 National Science and Technology Week (2021 NSTW).
de la Peña pointed out that from 2016 to 2021, the DOST has completed the development of various state-of-the-art development facilities and laboratories starting with the Advanced Manufacturing Center (AMCen), a rapid prototyping facility for the manufacturing industry to fast-track prototyping through the use of advanced 3D printing technology.
He then followed through with the establishment of the Materials Development Laboratory (MATDEV), a complementary laboratory for additive manufacturing that aims to discover and develop new materials for 3D printing and other similar technologies. Also, he mentioned the Advanced Mechatronics, Robotics, and Industrial Automation Laboratory (AMERIAL), the newest, modern facility that offers mechatronics, robotics, and industrial automation technologies; and the Metals and Engineering Innovation Center which are geared towards providing capabilities in metals research and development and other allied industries.
In addition to these, de la Peña enumerated other notable services and facilities to help the local industry to be at par with its global counterparts.
Among them are the Simulation Packaging Testing Laboratory and Green Packaging Laboratory that provide research collaboration on developing performance testing of transport packaging and green and reusable packaging.
Likewise, the Philippines’ first Metrology in Chemistry laboratory was included that looks into helping the local testing laboratories comply with traceable chemical measurements by producing its local reference materials (RMs) or samples that are used by laboratories in performing calibration, validation, quality control and quality assurance, and to establish metrological traceability.
Furthermore, the science chief mentioned the Philippine Genome Centers in the Visayas and Mindanao that provide a full range of DNA sequencing and Bioinformatics services in the two regions; aside from the first facility in Quezon City.
DOST is also behind the Philippine National Halal Laboratory and Science Center that hopes to assist Philippine manufacturer enter the huge Halal global market through certification of Halal products that are going-out and coming in on the country.
And on December this year, DOST will launch its the Innovative Tissue Culture Laboratory or iLAB to make use of tissue culture technologies to promote sustainable propagation among ornamental plant growers in the municipality of Guiguinto, Bulacan. This initiative hopes to receive a windfall of benefits to a very lucrative cut-flower industry that has global potential.
Heightened R&D programs
De la Pena further underscored the importance of research and development (R&D) in creating innovative products and services in various fields. First, he pointed out the recent upgrades in the area of disaster management as the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology launched recently the PHIVOLCS Mindanao Cluster Monitoring Center for Earthquake and Tsunami (PMCMCET), set to further increase the capabilities of the Philippine Seismic Network (PSN) in the monitoring and warning system in Mindanao ensuring continued operations in case key functions of the PHIVOLCS Data Receiving Center in Quezon City get hampered by any disaster.
Similarly, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (DOST-PAGASA) has additional forecasting equipment across the country with 17 new doppler radars to boost weather forecasting capabilities of the state weather bureau.
Significantly, the DOST gained traction with the Science for Change Program (S4CP) which has four component subprograms that support the R&D activities in the country, creating new knowledge and capabilities for the Filipino scientists and researchers.
One of the programs under the S4CP is the Niche Centers for R&D or NICER. NICER, which aims to strengthen research in the regions through funding grants to various Higher Education Institutions, implements unique R&D initiatives currently with 38 projects that are aligned with the DOST priority areas in agriculture, aquaculture, industry and emerging technologies, and health.
Furthermore, there is the R&D Leadership program or RDLead which aims to further develop and strengthen the research capabilities of the academe, research and development institutions (RDIs), and other government line agencies nationwide as a capacity building initiative.
Meanwhile, the Collaborative R&D to Leverage the Philippine Economy or CRADLE program which aims to enable technological advancement and innovation of local companies and support the growth of the Philippine Innovation ecosystem has supported some 17 projects that are helping the private sector advance their technologies and services through the spirit of strategic collaboration.
On the other hand, the Business Innovation through S&T or BIST program aims to provide financial assistance to Filipino private companies to enable R&D activities through the acquisition of strategic and relevant technologies geared to help the SMEs level up.
S&T response to the pandemic
Despite the sudden occurrence of the COVID-19 pandemic, the DOST was able to pivot and turned liabilities into opportunities for extensive S&T interventions. One of the notable accomplishments is the Tuklas-Lunas, a drug discovery program harnessing the local endemic resources. Since its establishment, the program has already developed 11 products that are in the commercial stage and 21 new active ingredients have been discovered, while two potential treatments are undergoing clinical trials.
Adapting to the challenging time, the DOST introduced several special projects to address the urgent needs to stem the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Among them is the rT-PCR test kit called GenAmplify of UP Manila and Manila HealthTek, Inc. that was developed and repurposed to detect the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) virus strain that causes the COVID-19 disease at cheaper cost.
Also, DOST was instrumental in funding the project called Feasibility Analysis of Syndromic Surveillance Using Spatio-Temporal Epidemiological Modeler for Early Detection of Diseases or FASSSTER that is a decision-making tool for disease modeling.
Moreover, DOST is currently looking at the results of the clinical trials of the Virgin Coconut Oil and Lagundi as adjunct treatments for COVID-19 cases after its initial success in the Sta. Rosa Community Hospital and Philippine General Hospital.
On the other hand, the Safe, Swift and Smart Passage or S-Pass developed by the DOST Regional Office VI became the primary online travel management tool used by local government units to facilitate domestic movement of travelers. It has now reached 4 million users and around 80% of the target LGUs.
De la Peña said that he believes that DOST met the challenges successfully and that it should not hinder the development of new products and services, rather it should be the reason to bring the benefits of science and technology to the people.
“Buo ang aking paniniwala na malaki ang naging ambag ng agham at teknolohiya sa ating pag-unlad bago sumapit ang COVID-19,” he added. “At magiging malaki pa rin ang ating maitutulong para mapuksa ang viral infection na ito at makabangon ang lahat tungo sa post-COVID [state].”
The 2021 NSTW is a weeklong virtual celebration that features the various DOST developed and implemented project, programs, and services from 22-28 November 2021. To see the daily activities and webinars offered to the general public for FREE, log in to www.nstw.dost.gov.ph or visit the NSTW Facebook page at NSTWDOST. (By Joy M. Lazcano, DOST-STII)