At Large

Montejo’s visions


HE DOESN’T look anything like a wild-eyed visionary, and in fact speaks in a low-key manner, so much so that one strains to hear him above the clink of plates and glasses and Filipiniana music softly wafting through the sound system.

But if one buys into the visions painted by Mario Montejo, secretary of the Department of Science and Technology, the future looks bright indeed. Not just that—maybe even shimmering, splendid, hopeful, cheerful.

Imagine a tomorrow in which traffic woes in the metropolis—the current favorite topic of commentators and social critics—have been eased with the widespread use of “road trains,” which are nothing but up to five interconnected coaches traveling on rubber tires (like linked buses) and powered by a hybrid diesel-electric system. The road train boasts of wide, fully air-conditioned interiors that can carry up to 120 passengers per coach, with the entire system accommodating up to 650,000 passenger trips per day.

Complementing the LRT and MRT overhead trains, the road train can seemingly move people swiftly around Metro Manila, harnessing, says Montejo, “trains’ effectiveness in moving people, and applying this principle to road transport.” And unlike in other cities where trams or cable cars, powered by electricity transmitted through overhead cables, carry people around, the proposed road train will not need any new and expensive major infrastructure, and will require, at best, a “dedicated” lane on Edsa and bus stops.

But Montejo is not forgetting the trains altogether. Last year, he announced a partnership with the Philippine National Railways to retrofit 40 idle trains donated by the Japanese government, with DOST engineers remodeling the coach bodies and overhauling their power systems to reactivate the trains and make them suited for PNR’s existing tracks.

* * *

At the same time, the DOST is leading the test-run of the “Automated Guideway Transit” or AGT, what the DOST has dubbed as the “first Filipino-developed train,” with a prototype in the University of the Philippines Diliman “being developed into a fully-automated or driverless people-mover” in coordination with UP experts. Depending on the results of the scheduled AGT test-runs in Diliman, the full-size regular version planned for Bicutan in Taguig (near the DOST head offices) will be completed by yearend.

From easing our traffic woes (presuming the Department of Transportation and Communications, Metro Manila Development Authority and local governments get on board), Montejo has also turned his sights on dealing with dengue, a disease caused by a virus transmitted by two types of mosquitoes that afflict thousands and killed 172 just this year.

One of the basic steps in dengue control has been “vector surveillance,” identifying “dengue hotspots” where the dengue-bearing mosquitoes proliferate. To measure the prevalence of dengue mosquitoes, the DOST has developed the ovicidal-larvicidal (OL) traps and dengue-alert website to enable public health workers “to monitor trends and potential dengue outbreaks for proper action by communities and government officials, from the barangay to policymaking levels.”

The DOST plans to integrate the dengue-alert website with the “Project NOAH” platform which gives information on approaching weather disturbances and possible disaster and risk areas. The website “arms people with information on the need to destroy mosquito breeding grounds in their areas or, on a personal level, to use mosquito repellents and nets.”

* * *

During our dinner with Montejo, he distributed samples of the OL traps, which are nothing but black plastic glasses (“mosquitoes are especially attracted to the color black,” he explains) in which herbal pellets are mixed with water, with a strip of  lawanit  or a type of plyboard left to stand in the water. When the mosquitoes lay their eggs on the  lawanit strip, the herbal mixture will kill the eggs and larvae. Some of these traps, says Montejo, are on sale in commercial drug stores.

In our homes and gardens, the OL traps can prevent dengue-carrying mosquitoes from proliferating. In schools and other public areas, the traps serve as monitoring aids, with monitors reporting (by text) to the DOST the number of traps that contain mosquito eggs and larvae and alerting local authorities to a possible dengue outbreak.

But it isn’t just traffic, transportation solutions, disaster preparedness and a public health problem like dengue that preoccupy the DOST head. Just as important to him, Montejo says, is the human resource component, recognizing the need “to provide opportunities for poor but talented and deserving students who may later contribute to socioeconomic development.” To secure a pool of weather forecasters and specialists, especially important in this era of climate change and increasing weather disturbances, the DOST has developed a BS Meteorology Scholarship Program, as well as scholarship programs for science and engineering graduate courses.

* * *

Montejo even plans to reach out to youths not just in Metro Manila but around the country, disclosing plans to establish some 15 regional science high schools duplicating the Philippine Science High School, which falls under the authority of the DOST.

To encourage local scientists, Montejo has also spearheaded the creation of “Tuklas Lunas Centers” to encourage researchers to produce medicines from indigenous sources “to provide quality yet inexpensive drugs to consumers and generate livelihood opportunities in the countryside.”

So there you go. From overhead trains to road trains, scholarships for budding scientists, disaster mitigation and mosquito traps—nothing, it seems, is too big or too small for the DOST to study and find a solution for.

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Tags: column , Department of Science and Technology , Mario Montejo , Rina Jimenez-David , `road trains’

  • tadasolo

    Finally a thinking and living cerebral secretary that makes sense and realizes the need to inject technical solutions instead of political in our conversation. The idea of regional technical centers is good but I would even suggest not to emphasized academic in a classroom settings of endless and robotic memorization program. Used applied methods of real life solutions like what the secretary have suggested traffic solutions that are workable and simple. How about flooding problem? How about housing for the poor? How about housing for the homeless and portable? How about clean water in villages? The flooding problem is technically fascinating in many respect. Here we are where major parts of Metro Manila are within a few kilometers to the Manila and Laguna Bay and could not find ways to drain that water? If a thinking technical person be given a chance to solve this problem he think in terms of a series of catch basins, canals and pump stations to control and regulate the flow. Now a thinking person with technical background would probably say among all these possible solutions how can I integrate them with the existing features and terrain of Metro Manila without impacting and dislocating a good number of people, disrupting their lives and cost less. I have never heard a sensible plan other than blaming the poor settlers for throwing their garbage and living along esteros. I wonder if the poor have more garbage than the rich and middle class people of Metro Manila. Can the secretary find out if this is the case to remove the myth?? Also while we are it, are the poor squatters polluting the environment more even though they do not owned cars, ride buses, eat at restaurants and they do not owned the factories lining up the rivers of Metro Manila? As a matter of fact some poor squatters are good practioners of recyling program by rummaging and collecting the trash of the rich and middle class. Can the secretary find out how much recyling the squatters do compared to the rich and middle class? Also while we are at it how much walking the squatters do compared to the rich and middle people of Metro Manila and burn more fossil fuel to pollute the environment and send the hard earned currency made by OFW back to where it was originally ? Can the secretary find out?

    • http://jaoromero.com/ Jao Romero

      the flooding worsened when certain natural waterways in the metropolis where turned into real estate. and they were no squatters but big time land developers. on these waterways there now sits a city. where else must the water go then if not the surrounding areas?

      do we even have zoning laws? and if we do, are they followed? it seems that land development is haphazardly done and land which should not be developed are still developed, never mind the consequences. hands are greased, and lard put on the pan. on that pan the citizens are grilled.

  • Etude57

    Why also not utilize the rivers for transport? It could relieve road congestion, Another idea would be water-taxi’s like in the Netherlands, for forensic transport,

    • CharlesWilliamMorganJr

      This is a fantastic idea! How many rivers are available and navigable for this purpose? Suppose I want to go from the Megamall to the Mall of Asia? Which river route should I take? Suppose I wish to go from Quezon City to Tutuban Station? Which river route would I take? However, in all seriousness, “one” route would be effective, provided it included interchanges with elevators to connect it seamlessly to the LRT/MRT lines under which it flows.

  • buninay1

    More power to Montejo and DOST!!!

  • Fulpol

    But Montejo is not forgetting the trains altogether. Last year, he announced a partnership with the Philippine National Railways to retrofit 40 idle trains donated by the Japanese government, with DOST engineers remodeling the coach bodies and overhauling their power systems to reactivate the trains and make them suited for PNR’s existing tracks.


    gawin yung double deck yung tren.. para doble ang capacity neto.. basta kaya ng makina..

  • Fulpol

    Imagine a tomorrow in which traffic woes in the metropolis—the current favorite topic of commentators and social critics—have been eased with the widespread use of “road trains,” which are nothing but up to five interconnected coaches traveling on rubber tires (like linked buses) and powered by a hybrid diesel-electric system. The road train boasts of wide, fully air-conditioned interiors that can carry up to 120 passengers per coach, with the entire system accommodating up to 650,000 passenger trips per day.


    may comment ako dati na nag-suggest ako ng bus train.. ilang bus coaches o bagon na connected at hinahatak ng isang malaking makina ng siguro 500 – 700 HP kung may ganyang engine.. dapat ang brake system nito ay air brake system gaya ng tren at mga trailer trucks.. pinakamahalaga dito ay yung makina at brake system…

    at dapat ito ay may dedicated lane sa EDSA.. ang dispatching nito ay gaya din sa MRT at LRT..

    innovative ideas ba ni Montejo yan??

    yucks….. baka nabasa lang nila ang comment ni Fulpol at naisip nila na feasible.. uuyyyy di naman siguro…

  • Allan Schapira

    Unfortunately, there is no evidence in public domain for the effectiveness and safety of the OL traps. As long as this is the case, it is unethical to promote them for the control of dengue.

  • CharlesWilliamMorganJr

    The “road train” idea might be cute and quaint, but it is not logical. Drivers would both drive and park in the reserved lanes, making it very difficult for the “road trains” to be speedy or comfortable. Such large and long vehicles would be a hazard to other traffic. Braking would be a problem. When quick braking is required, interconnected vehicles, such as envisioned for these “road trains,” tend to buckle up, wreck and ruin the entire vehicle. Accidents would claim more lives and cause more injuries than in normal accidents. There are reasons why such systems have not been tried successfully in any other world location.
    The solution to the Manila traffic problem is to look at such cities as Moscow, Berlin, London, Paris, Tokyo, Shanghai, Seoul, Beijing, Hong Kong, New Delhi, etc., and see how they have implemented and managed subways and rail systems. Trams and LRT can be used as in Amsterdam, Milan, Zurich, Vienna, Gutenberg, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Toronto, Melbourne, Berlin, Warsaw, Prague, Rotterdam, Moscow, Paris, Basel, etc. Both types of systems can be integrated and interconnected. These systems are comfortable, efficient, non-polluting, and have a long lifespan, as well as being less prone to accidents.
    The Philippines should not settle for third rate solutions when first class solutions are available. Look at some of the defects in the present MRT and LRT lines in Manila. Although the lines cross each other, it is not possible to easily transfer from one line to another, as no interchanges were built into the system. When traveling in the cities mentioned above, one can transfer seamlessly from one line to another. Why is that not possible in Manila? Those who designed the present lines after the first one was opened, need to be incarcerated for corruption or sent back to school for a proper education emphasizing logic and common sense. For example, why does the EDSA line not go all the way to the Mall of Asia? Manila deserves to be a world class city! However, if it is to be a world class city, cheap third rate solutions must be avoided! Let’s go “first class” and do it quickly, avoiding the never-ending “study and evaluation groups!”

    • tadasolo

      What I have been arguing all along is we need to have one agency in charge of the operations, maintenance and expansion program of the metro in Manila which includes both buses and trians. We do not need this convoluted and uncoordinated system with different ownerships and standards of trains and buses. All Trains and buses should be coordinated into one functional system with the main purpose of moving people. I agree we need to look into other cities. The other thing I would recommend is we need to hire a foreigner or anybody with experience running a public transport system in a large city like manila and pay them good money into organizing the Metro Agency and start training our people. In order for cities have a representation into the Agency each cities and national government would be represented in the Board of Directors whose function is to represent the cities interest. We cannot have the free for all non directional and mindless traffic condition now. It is going to get worst

      • CharlesWilliamMorganJr

        Excellent insight and superb suggestions!

  • josh_alexei

    There are already proven and tested technos in the market and all is needed is continuing improvement of them..Hybrid Buses are in service now, but the initial cost is very, very expensive. ($7 to 8 hundred thousands each) Electric Cars nowadays are soo smooth and quite and can go two lenghts but it has to share the right of way with public cars. Underground subways Trains (eletric powered) within the networks is still one of the most efficient components of Mass Transit.and the safest.

    Ms. David, all these Scientific and technological goals can only be reachable if is accompanied by very Robust RESEARCH programs within the institutions. The Development and advancement of Technologies and Science come not without that component. If you ever heard about the gadget named Blackberry, it was just some University of Waterloo Students project which was funded by Research grants from Federal and Provincial Government.. Dr. Tak Mak discovery of Receptor TCell is the Result of his leading the Team of Researchers at Princess Margaret Cancer Institute which is also funded by Millions of Donations and by Government grants. And in the near future you will be hearing more of this Brilliant man, because he is given the best team of Researchers and funding.

  • Waterview Sly Fox

    Rina, I have additional visions I want to send you via a separet e-mail. You can then decide if you want to publish it.
    Could you please reply with your e-mail address?
    Waterview Sly Fox

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