A ‘science nation’
After all that cat-and-mouse, cloak-and-dagger chase for information on a church imbroglio that broke in the news last week, I took in a different air last Saturday. I went to the much-awaited exhibit of the Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (DOST-PCAARRD) at the SMX Convention Center.
I had looked forward to a leisurely stroll. Well, my friends and I arrived to see the huge exhibit hall jam-packed with students of varied degrees and focus of interest, as shown by the way they talked, gawked and poked at the stuff on display. While I found it to be a less-than-ideal situation for learning (for myself), I was happy that many young people and teachers came to see Filipino inventions and innovations. Academic institutions from all over the country displayed their scientific creations and discoveries.
“Science nation” was the catchphrase of the event—that is, the Philippines as “a science nation innovating for global competitiveness.” I thought: We might consider the Philippines a laggard in science (do I hear protests?), but definitely not in innovativeness. And as far as competitiveness is concerned, we are up there in the music and entertainment departments. Putting science, innovativeness and competitiveness together is a tall order that the DOST is bravely pursuing and tried well to showcase during Science and Technology (ST) Week.
The crowd was so thick I had little time and space to get to know about the ST that went into everything on display. I had to content myself with making brief exchanges with the persons in the booths and taking home reading materials.
There was an area where products—mainly food, drinks and apparel made from indigenous ingredients and materials—were for sale. Benguet State University’s booth had lots of yummy stuff that the staff could barely cope. I bought strawberry wine and seeds of violet snap beans that I hope to grow in my backyard.
The bigger inventions on display could be ordered or custom-built for manufacturers and users. I stumbled upon a ready-to-install ground septic tank made of linear, low-density polyethylene (LLDPE). The INCA anaerobic septic tank or sewage treatment system is based on the settling and the anaerobic filtration of household sewage, particularly wastewater discharged from toilets.
Environment-friendly, it needs no electricity or regular maintenance. It is a one-piece, rotationally-molded plastic tank manufactured from virgin LLDPE. The tank comes in different shapes and sizes. It is designed to be completely buried in the ground and is suited for homes, offices, factories and churches. And why not, for a getaway cabin in the woods?
PCAARRD’s exhibit was mainly on how ST are “infused in agri-aqua-natural resource commodities” to improve productivity, product quality and profitability, and thus raise the living standards of farmers and fishers and their communities. Among the products featured were banana, mud crabs, abaca, goat, and the plant growth promoter.
The plant growth promoter involves the use of radiation-modified oligo-kappa-carrageenan from algae/seaweed and oligo-chitosan from crab and shrimp shell for crops’ nutrient intake, for plants’ increased yield and resistance to disease and bacteria. Got that?
Sultan Kudarat State University used science in goat-raising to ensure that Muslims get authentic halal products in their meals that their religion requires.
Shown at the exhibit was a video of Benham Rise, which has been declared part of the Philippine Extended Continental Shelf and now under the PCAARRD-funded program Exploration, Mapping and Assessment of Deep Water Areas. Backed by researchers, scientists and seasoned divers from different institutions, the program will explore the resources in the area.
I went to the booth that featured bamboo and its many uses. Bamboo belongs to the grass family that is often associated with difficult rural life. But bamboo is actually a great building material and has great potential for interior design, furniture and other building needs.
The Philippines has many varieties of bamboo. Fast-growing, bamboo can be used to prevent soil erosion in landslide-prone communities. I couldn’t help thinking: Bamboo has long been romanticized, likened to the Asian trait of endurance and resilience amid tempests (or the other way around), but it has not quite gone mainstream compared with other building materials.
The DOST’s “SIPAG ni Juan” promotes bamboo as “green gold from the forests.” (“SIPAG” stands for Strategic Industry Science and Technology Program for Agri-Aqua Growth; it also means hard work.) It has developed scientific ways of managing bamboo forests and increasing yield. The bamboo program has target areas in Regions 3, 4, 6 (Iloilo) and 10 (Bukidnon), with farmers, nursery owners and manufacturers as beneficiaries.
Exhibited, too, was a traditional hand loom or weaving machine that sported a new and sleek design by the DOST’s Philippine Textile Research Institute using a mixture of metal and wood that makes it more efficient in weaving natural dyed fibers from abaca, banana and other plant materials. The University of the Philippines Los Baños also showed its work in improving abaca varieties.
By the way, the DOST has a SETUP (Small Enterprise Technology Upgrading Program) that helps small and medium entrepreneurs improve their productivity and competitiveness through technical assistance, personnel training, funds, design and even marketing. The DOST is only a call away.
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