By Alexander Villafania INQUIRER.NET MANILA, Philippines – “Keep your interests alive.” This was the message of Balik-Scientist awardee Dr. Baldomero Olivera at the start of the 2009 National Science and Technology Week at the Manila Hotel. Olivera, a distinguished professor of biology at the University of Utah, first gained fame for his discovery of painkilling properties in the highly toxic, ocean-going cone snails that are abundant in Philippine waters. Olivera’s discovery led to the development of a commercial painkiller called Ziconotide (Prialt), which is administered to patients suffering from extreme pain. Unlike traditional painkiller morphine, Ziconotide is not known to cause painkiller addiction and lasts much longer in the system. Olivera graduated from the University of the Philippines and moved to the US to take up his graduate degree in chemistry at the California Institute of Technology. His interests in cone shells started long before he started college; in fact, he started out at a tennis court collecting shells. “Seashells were used to compact the surface of tennis courts. They were dredged from Manila Bay and were dumped near the tennis courts. While waiting for my dad, I used to sift through the heap of shells and identified what were interesting.” It was this interest that made him go back to cone snails for possible research. It also won him “Scientist of the Year” in 2007 by the Harvard Foundation. At his keynote speech during the NSTW opening ceremonies, Olivera said he hopes more Filipino scientists to continue their research endeavors and to give back to the country. He said many researches can provide economic gains to both the scientific community as well as to the country. Department of Science and Technology Secretary Estrella Alabastro said this year’s NSTW aims to spur Filipino scientists and researchers to find ways in resolving global issues. One goal is to alleviate global climate change, which is causing destruction in many industries in the Philippines, particularly agriculture. Numerous programs will be conducted in different locations nationwide for the entire week of the NSTW. There are seminars of nanotechnology, robotics, awareness programs on waste management, business ventures based on scientific output, research presentations on health, genetics, food development, among others. The NSTW was first created under Presidential Proclamation 2214 in 1982 and was later amended in 1993 through Republic Act 169. This declared celebrations for the NSTW on the third week of July every year.
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By Dennis Posadas THE Philippines may be one of the world’s top supporters of Earth Hour and Earth Day. We may have a new Renewable Energy Act. But if all this does not translate into greenhouse gas emission reduction, then all that is for naught. After all, don’t you think it is time to move beyond token political statements on clean energy, and actually implement these clean energy projects? In order for GHG reduction to take effect, the Philippines to seriously take advantage of the new Renewable Energy Act, by having a companion ecosystem for innovation, financing, and deployment of renewable energy projects. That is why I am so pleased to find out that opportunities to finance clean energy projects were showcased in the Philippines Clean Energy Investor Forum last June 15 at the Edsa Shangri-La hotel. The forum showcased projects that evolved from a competition, sponsored by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Private Finance Advisory Network (PFAN). PFAN is a multi-lateral public-private partnership which is managed in Asia by USAID's ECO-ASIA Clean Development and Climate program and initiated by the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) Climate Technology Initiative. The PFAN Philippines Clean Energy Investor Forum served as a platform for Philippine energy entrepreneurs to showcase their ideas to investors. Six finalists were chosen by PFAN for the Philippines Business Plan competition. Each of the companies received mentoring and one-on-one coaching before they formally made their investment pitches in the forum. The event was basically a dog and pony show of those seeking investments, before a group of investors who also want to invest in renewable/clean energy. The total value of investments of those who made it to the finals was potentially more than $500 million, comprising both debt and equity finance. In addition to offering promising investments, these projects have the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 1.5 million metric tons of CO2 per year, according to USAID. During the June 15 presentations, the panel of judges selected two Clean Energy Financing Award winners for the Philippines. The winner, Asea One, is proposing to setup 16 clean energy powerplants in Negros Oriental and the Western Visayas, while the other finalist, SURE is proposing to build, own and operate clean energy plants that run on feedstocks like rice husks and wood chips. "By bringing together clean energy entrepreneurs and investors, the PFAN Philippines Clean Energy Investor Forum is addressing the barriers that clean energy businesses face in seeking financing," said Jon Lindborg, Mission Director for USAID Philippines. "These barriers make it difficult for investors to identify and screen viable clean energy projects." USAID believes that by identifying and nurturing the best ideas, they can help facilitate financing for the projects. The Agency is also working to expand regional clean energy finance initiatives on a regional basis by developing a network of businesses and investors interested in promoting sustainable clean energy technologies and businesses. The next stop of the PFAN Investor Forum is Indonesia on June 25, and then Hong Kong, where the PFAN China Investor Forum will be held 27-28 September. It is great that we have the Renewable Energy Act in place, a product of all the years that groups like Greenpeace and WWF lobbied our Congress to implement. We can send all the representatives that we want to send to Copenhagen this year and have all the laws and policies in place, but if back home we do not build the ecosystem that will encourage actual clean energy entrepreneurs and ventures, we will simply be talking about greenhouse gas emission reduction, and not really doing anything about it. Dennis Posadas is the author of Jump Start: A Technopreneurship Fable (Singapore: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2009)
The Philippines will host the annual International Renewable Energy Conference (IREC) in July this year. The Congressional Commission on Science and Technology and Engineering (COMSTE), headed by Senator Edgardo Angara, will organize the IREC 2009. Participants in this year’s IREC would include local and foreign academics, scientists, energy investors, and entrepreneurs. Similarly, there is another IREC that started in 2004 as a result of the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development, where renewable energy was discussed a critical component for worldwide development. Nigeria was last year's host. In a statement, Angara said the hosting of IREC in the Philippines would strengthen the country’s plans to use renewable energy sources after Senate Bill 2046 or the Renewable Energy Act was passed in 2008. Angara expects that results of the IREC would include programs to help the Philippines develop its domestic renewable energy sources. Angara also hopes to create linkages with Spain and Brazil, which are already establishing their own domestic renewable energy sources. “The Philippines, as cited by Moody’s, moved a step in the right direction with long term solution of passing a comprehensive renewable energy law.But more importantly, it is a step towards sustainable growth, towards clean development,” Angara said.
By Izah Morales INQUIRER.net CEBU, Philippines -- The growing number of the population, the rise in food prices and the increase in cost of global fuel can affect food and nutrition in Asia, Assistant Secretary Maria Bernardita Flores of the National Nutrition Council of the Department of Health said during a symposium on biotechnology and nutritionally enhanced food and crops during the 5th Asian Conference on Food and Nutrition Safety here. In the Philippines, government hunger mitigation programs like the “Food for the School” program and “Tindahan Natin” are existing efforts to address the problem of food security, Flores said. "'Yung food for school program aims to address hunger among the families but the delivery is through the child who is in school while the Tindahan Natin, run by National Food Authority and Department of Social Welfare and Development offer rice at reduced prices [The food for school program aims to address hunger among the families but the delivery is through the child who is in school while the Tindahan Natin, run by NFA and DSWD offer rice at reduced prices.]," Flores said. Flores recommended the development of a conceptual framework for understanding hunger and malnutrition; establishment of surveillance and monitoring systems; strengthening of food production; scaling up of effective nutrition intervention programs; and formulatation of policies supportive of food and nutrition security. She also stressed that food and nutrition program should prioritize the needy. Flores said the Department of Health has launched a multimedia campaign that aims to lessen local consumption of rice and promote rice substitutes, such as root crops. Rene Burt Llanto of Department of Science and Technology Region VII, for his part, said the agency is planning to create food safety teams in all regions next year to help food processing and food service industries meet the requirements of government agencies like the Bureau of Food and Drugs. "The demand now for food safety measures is increasing among hotels and other food companies," added Llanto. Meanwhile, Dr. Christopher Leaver of the University of Oxford suggested that investments should be placed on science and technology to increase agricultural efficiency while attempting to reverse the impact of climate change on economies worldwide. "Through the partnership of International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI) and Food and Nutrition Research Institute-Department of Science and Technology (FNRI-DOST), we will put up a convergence of experts, one way by which we can enrich the capacity of our local scientists on current issue of food and nutrition safety, " added Dr. Mario Capanzana, FNRI-DOST director.
MANILA, Philippines – Key United Nations (UN) and Asian Development Bank (ADB) officials will speak in a food, energy and climate summit seeking to raise public awareness on these three interconnected issues in the Philippines next week. Stephen Anderson, UN country director and representative to the Philippines for its World Food Program and Xianbin Yao, ADB acting director general for regional sustainable development, will speak at the said summit organized by the Asian Institute of Management (AIM). The summit aims to discuss these issues and find ways to mitigate adverse effects of climate changes to food and energy and vice versa. UN experts have warned that rising food prices could spark worldwide unrest and threaten political stability, according to AIM. A recent World Bank report revealed that at least 33 countries are facing political and social unrest due to rising food and energy prices. The report already noted riots and unrest have erupted in 22 of these countries. Meanwhile, the International Alert (IA), a London-based peace-building organization, released its own report in November 2007 highlighting the "risks of conflict and instability as a consequence of nations' inability to adapt to climate change". The said report identified 46 countries facing a high risk of armed conflict as a "knock-on" consequence of climate change. IA's list includes the Philippines as well as India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand, all of which have a history of armed conflict. Foreign affairs secretary Alberto Romulo and Agriculture secretary Arthur Yap will also be delivering keynote presentations in the summit which happens August 27 at the Hotel Sofitel in Pasay City.
By Alex Villafania INQUIRER.net INNOVATION is key to improving the country’s global competitiveness, as well as strengthening the local economy. This was the key message delivered by several government and private sector executives during the presentation for the upcoming National Innovation Summit (NIS) to be held in Manila November 26. “The NIS is the start for all of us to push for innovation in the country. We have linked up with several groups from the academe, local and foreign government, and private sector to work together,” said Frederico Macaranas, executive director of the Asian Institute of Management Policy Center. Macaranas noted that the Philippines slipped behind other Southeast Asian countries in terms of competitiveness in the last 30 years. Some scientists and engineers had no natural place to connect to so they sought greener pastures abroad. Macaranas also noted the problem of slow decline in culture of innovation and invention, which pushed back the country’s level of competitiveness. “This is what we hope to resolve when we meet with the various sectors during the NIS,” Macaranas said. The Department of Science and Technology, which has under its management several sub-agencies that focus on technology development, experiences most of the problems in terms of brain drain as many scientists and engineers are leaving the country. Regardless, Alabastro said the DOST has been implementing projects to encourage local scientists to produce more technologies and innovations, as well as enticing Filipino scientists and researchers working abroad to come back and share their knowledge locally. Alabastro said that while these activities work, it still requires the assistance of the private sector that has the financial capability to turn scientific outputs into commercially viable products. Meanwhile, IBM Philippines president and general manager James Velasquez said that as one of the private sector representatives, it is important that companies realize the need to support locally developed innovations. He noted that having a pool of innovators encourages multi-national firms to locate to the Philippines, as well as to help local firms. Mirroring what Alabastro and Macaranas said, Velasquez added that the NIS would be a good venue to get the private sector to see what they could do to help local innovators. Here's a video of INQUIRER.net multimedia reporter Erika Tapalla interviewing Alabastro and Velasquez. Intellectual Property Office Director General Adrian Cristobal Jr. agreed with Alabastro and Macaranas, saying that the majority of patent filings in the Philippines are from foreign firms and only a few Filipinos have filed for patents in the past decade. Cristobal said that one measurement of the country’s economic strength is its capacity to innovate and he said the Philippines is far behind other countries in terms of innovation. Likewise, very few even know the value of intellectual property rights, thus they fail to protect their innovations and inventions. “Knowing their rights is half the success. Actually patenting is another,” he said. Here's a video of me interviewing Cristobal.
DO you have at least a 128kbps Internet connection and RealPlayer installed on your PC? Then the good news is that you can watch a live webcast of the opening ceremony that will kick off National Science and Technology Week on July 16. Yup, it's NSTW from July 16 to 20, and the Department of Science and Technology will have a live webcast of the opening ceremony via PREGINET (Philippine Research, Education, and Government Information Network. The opening ceremony will be held on July 16 at the Dusit Hotel Nikko in Makati City, with Senator Edgardo Angara as keynote speaker. The webcast will be available from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on July 16 at rtsp://stream.pregi.net:554/encoder/nstw2007.rm. If you don't have RealPlayer installed on your PC, download it -- it's free, after all. According to the DOST site, you can use the test video at rtsp://stream.pregi.net/nstw2007.rm to check if you meet the requirements. Here's a press statement from the DOST on the series of scientific meetings that will be held at Dusit starting 10: 30 a.m.
Topics include "Status of Biomedical Development in the Philippines" (Dr. Remigio Olveda of Research Institute for Tropical Medicine), "Biotechnology" (Dr. William G. Padolina of International Rice Research Institute), "Philippine Global Competitiveness through Engineering Research and Development for Technology" (Dr. Rowena Cristina Guevarra of University of the Philippines in Diliman), "Substitution of the Supplemental Light Required for the Bolting of Asterericoides Hybrid using Gibberellic Acid" (Dr. Leonido Naranja, UP Los Baños), and "Alternative Energy: Life Cycle Environmental Benefits (or Disbenefits)" (Dr. Alvin Culaba, Dela Salle University). The conference is intended for science and medical professionals, researchers, academe, and other partners in scientific initiatives led by the Department of Science and Technology.Click here for a PDF of the program activities -- you'll need the free Adobe Acrobat Reader.
By Joey Alarilla INQUIRER.net IT'S time again for the spotlight to fall on our country's scientific research and innovation as the Philippines celebrates National Science and Technology Week on July 16-20. Actually, if you think about it, we should all work together in highlighting science and technology every day of the year. It's a shame that, more often than not, S&T developments are overlooked because of political and show biz scandals. This is precisely why we launched the Inside Science blog -- to share our love for science and showcase the developments in this field in the Philippines. Here's a press statement from the Department of Science and Technology's Science and Technology Media Service on the upcoming NSTW celebration.
The Department of Science and Technology will put on show innovations developed by local scientists, researchers, and inventors as part of celebrations for the 2007 National Science and Technology Week on July 16-20. Science communities will host open houses during the weeklong event that’s planned around the theme "Science, Technology, and Innovation for Progress." The innovations are mainly technology-based solutions to issues on health, environment, security, and energy. This year’s celebrations are clustered in several science communities such as Bicutan (Taguig City), Diliman (Quezon City), Manila, and Los Baños (Laguna). DOST will lead the events along with its 21 attached agencies, regional offices, the academe, partners, and special guests. Sen. Edgardo J. Angara will be the keynote speaker during the opening ceremonies on July 16 at Dusit Hotel Nikko Manila in Makati City. The event’s highlight is the conferment of DOST excellence awards in science research, education, and promotion. Casebooks on information technology, entrepreneurship, among others will also be launched, and scientific meetings will be held the whole day in the same venue. The open houses, which will run July 17-19, will showcase developments in alternative energy (venue: National Academy of Science and Technology, DOST Complex, Bicutan, Taguig City); information and communication technologies (venue: Advanced Science and Technology Institute, CP Garcia Ave., UP Diliman); health (venue: UP Manila); and environment and biotechnology (venue: Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Research and Development, Los Baños, Laguna). DOST’s regional offices will stage their respective open houses as well. Activities on July 18 will mainly feature the youth, students, and their mentors who are expected to participate in science quizzes, poster exhibits, and related events. An "Innovation Forum" for researchers, entrepreneurs, businessmen, investors, and other interested individuals looking for commercially viable innovative products and services follows on July 19. For more information on the NSTW celebration, please contact Director Bernie Justimbaste, head of the NSTW secretariat, at +63 2 837-2071 local 2073.