The Association of Science Department Heads of Caloocan (ASDHC) held Caloocan’s first Science Congress in partnership with the Young Christian Physicist Society of the Philippines (YCPSP), the Scientific Career System (SCS) and the Philippine Association of Career Scientists (PACS), Inc. at STI College, Caloocan City last October 23, 2014.
A total of 333 participants, composed of students and teachers from 31 Caloocan high schools, attended theevent. Six SCS scientists, namely, Dr. Arvin Diesmos, Dr. Lucille Abad, Forester Arsenio Ella, Dr. Norvie Manigbas, Dr. Florencia Pulhin, and Dr. Edwin Alcantara gave the participants ideas about their fields of specialization.
Dr. Diemos, Scientist III of the National Museum of the Philippines, discussed the richness of the Philippines’ natural resources, species extinction and biodiversity; and the country being a biodiversity hotspot. “Field research is a fun job although teaching is nobler. You get to see all these things you didn’t know exist; you never expected to see when you were young. Something you may want to look further into,” he said.
Dr. Abad, Scientist I of the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI) of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), provided the audience a deeper understanding of radiation. She emphasized that radiation is not only about nuclear power. Radiation, when used properly, is highly beneficial. In the medical field, use of hydrogel wound dressings produced using gamma radiation helps heal burn wounds more efficiently. For agriculture, using the right amount of gamma rays help rice resist the rice tungro virus disease.
Reinforcing the message of Dr. Diesmos, Forester Ella, Scientist III of the Forest Products Research and Development Institute of DOST, showed how rich and diverse the Philippines is by sharing his studies on different tree species that produce high valued resins. Fragrant exudates extracted from pili tree is now considered a major dollar earner as it is exported to France for manufacture of expensive perfumes. Forester Ella stressed that proper tapping of trees can increase sap yield and at the same time prolong life of trees. This can eventually increase both production and quality of resin which means increased income for the community especially indigenous peoples.
Dr. Manigbas, Scientist I of the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), talked about “Breeding Rice Varieties in the Philippines.” He shared the processes involved in breeding rice, the rice situation of the country and the reasons why there is a need to import rice despite the country’s vast areas planted with rice. He also emphasized that through biotechnology, 10 years needed to produce variety through breeding can be reduced to eight years. Dr. Manigbas also exhorted the audience to be “RICEponsible” in consuming rice to effectively contribute to the rice self-sufficiency program of the government. He stressed that billions of pesos are wasted in every two spoons of rice left by a single consumer.
Dr. Pulhin, Scientist II of UP Los Baños, discussed potential impacts of the climate change to the country and informed the participants of strategies that can help the Philippines address this issue and be more prepared at times of disaster. She added that although a natural phenomenon, the changes in climate are happening faster than predicted.
The last speaker, Dr. Alcantara, Scientist I of UP Los Baños, spoke about the application of biotechnology to corn production and how it can help produce better and safe products and lessen dependence on synthetic chemicals. “Modern biotechnology is a viable option. Don’t be overwhelmed with fear on matters like this and always look at things from a scientific perspective,” said Dr. Alcantara. Further, Dr. Alcantara challenged the audience, “We have to work hard to progress. It is only us who can do it. Others cannot do this for us!”
The congress ended in a high note after meeting the objectives to help students develop scientific and environmental awareness, appreciate their environment to become dynamic and responsible members of society, and uplift their significant role as stewards of God’s creation through science and technology.
Civil Service Commission Chairman Francisco T. Duque III has been known for delivering powerful messages and speeches during events and ceremonies. During the last oath taking of the newly conferred scientists of SCS last June 30, Chairman Duque coined a special term that places “civil service” in the core of values and awareness of each of the scientists – being a “Lingkod Bayani.”
Chairman Duque described scientists in the public service as Lingkod Bayani who despite the limitations strive for excellence and aim for improvement in their chosen field of expertise.
Chairman Duque is more of an advocate of his words. His leadership as the Chairman of the Scientific Career Council (SCC), the highest policy-making body of the Scientific Career System, brought profound changes in the implementation of the Scientific Career System. From year 2010 to the present, a total of 39 qualified researchers from various research and development institutes including the University of the Philippines System were conferred scientist rank in the System. Chairman Duque believes that proper recognition and reward is key to encourage and retain highly productive people in the service.
Also during his term, the SCC institutionalized the foreign travel grant of US$ 2000 as support to scientists who are presenting research papers in international scientific conferences in order to increase the visibility of Filipino scientists in international scientific events and establish linkages with foreign collaborators for future collaborative undertakings. From year 2011, a total of 22 scientists have availed of the foreign travel grant.
During the last two years, the SCC received poor performance rating reports for a number of scientists. Chairman Duque said that this has to be addressed and instructed the Secretariat to carry out a study to determine the factors that affect the performance of the scientists in research. He believes more in support rather than penalty to help scientists overcome limitations.
In response, the SCC Secretariat conducted a survey and needs analysis workshop among SCS scientists in order to understand each and everyone’s unique situations and the reasons preventing them from achieving their targets. The survey showed that research institutions usually have limited inhouse funding for researches and thus, majority of the scientists access grants to support their work from external funding agencies.
Chairman Duque wanted swift action. He orchestrated the approval of the recommendation of the SCC Secretariat to provide each scientist with PhP0.5M research grant each year to fund short-term research projects and instructed that a mechanism of administration be immediately created. The National Research Council of the Philippines was identified to administer the grant program and mechanisms have been set in place.
Another important milestone in Chairman Duque’s career in SCS is the approval of automatic eligibility of SCS scientists to the Magna Carta benefits or Republic Act 8439. Previously, non-DOST S&T personnel which include the members of the Scientific Career System have to apply for certification first from the DOST Secretary as a proof that they are performing S&T activities before they can become eligible for the said benefits. Sadly, many scientists have retired from the service without enjoying the special provisions such as retirement benefits based on one (1) salary grade higher than his/her basic salary, simply because they are not certified eligible. As per SCC decision, Chairman Duque wrote to DOST Secretary Mario G. Montejo recommending to amend this rule in favor of the scientists. As a result Secretary Montejo issued the DOST Administrative Order 006 last October 27, 2014 amending the guidelines so that SCS scientists be made automatically eligible for the Magna Carta as soon as they are conferred scientist rank and that the required certification be waived.
Chairman Duque has always wanted prestige for the SCS scientists and believes that they be given high regard especially during oath taking ceremonies. He officiated a total of five oath taking ceremonies for newly conferred scientists from 2010 to 2014, which were also attended by other SCC members, and the induction of 2014-2015 officers of the Philippine Association of Career Scientists.
During the last SCC meeting on November 3, Chairman Duque in consultation with other SCC members suggested amending the Executive Order 901 “Prescribing the Rules and Regulations to Implement the Scientific Career System Initially at the National Science and Technology Authority” and to study outdated provisions. He aimed that the legal framework on which SCS operates should be free of ambiguity and that the legal terminologies used are appropriate and applicable.
Chairman Duque also pushed for creating a permanent office for the SCC Secretariat having staff with permanent plantilla positions to ensure continuity and stability of the operations since the number of member scientists is projected to increase threefold in two years with the inclusion of new institutions with potential nominees for admission. He instructed that this provision be integrated in the amended Executive Order.
This has always been Chairman Duque’s selfless vision, to produce more quality scientists in the service, to increase investment in R&D, and to foster a robust reward and recognition system.
Thank you Chairman Duque for being an ardent leader and a passionate Lingkod Bayani for all of us and for the civil service!