University of the Philippines Los Baños

KEYNOTE MESSAGE

By Hon. MARIO G. MONTEJO
Secretary, DOST

UP Los Baños S&T Forum and Exhibition and Awarding Ceremonies for the 2014 UPLB Outstanding Personnel
06 March 2014, SMX Convention Center, Pasay City

On behalf of the Department of Science and Technology, I would like to express my appreciation to be invited to the UP Los Baños Science and Technology Forum and Exhibition here at the SMX Convention Center. I also would like to take this opportunity to express my warmest congratulations to the Most Outstanding Personnel of the University for 2014.

Allow me to begin by commending the organizers for the painstaking arrangements made for this event and for a job well done.

This year’s theme, “Making Science and Technology Work for Sustainable Development,” reflects the urgency of preserving the economic and social gains so that future generations will still be able to enjoy extraordinary times we are living in. But let us not forget that since time immemorial, S&T has had a profound effect on mankind.

It was, after all, the application of farming techniques in ancient Mesopotamia that enabled the first food surpluses to be created and the first communities to form. History has documented how men and women of science, building on the scientific knowledge generated by the world’s great civilizations, have effectively harnessed science to provide us the conveniences of the modern world.

Looking at the theme of this event, let me make a suggestion. Can we modify it, to read: “Making Science and Technology Work for Sustainable Development— and Climate Change”.

Climate Change is the greatest challenge of our generation, especially here in the Philippines. As we all know, the impact of typhoon Yolanda was enormous and unprecedented worldwide, considering its toll on lives and properties.

Our local communities and people on the ground prepared for the strong typhoon. However, post disaster assessment showed that there is more that needs to be done in helping our communities prepare for stronger typhoons and future disasters.

Definitely, we are one with President Aquino in saying, “We don’t want to be trapped in the vicious cycle of destruction and reconstruction disaster after disaster” as the Philippines faces an average of 20 typhoons a year, along with associated floods, and storm surges, as well as earthquakes, among others. Recent events and global reports have shown that there is an increasing trend in the intensity and frequency of disasters. As a disaster laboratory, the Philippines and our communities have a high risk of facing massive destruction as that we have seen caused by Yolanda.

While we cannot stop the occurrence of natural hazards, we can definitely mitigate potential disaster risks in our communities.

We, at the DOST, believe that we can use science to better understand and improve our disaster planning and preparations at the national and local community levels.

Applying science, we can draw up scenario-based strategies and protocols in dealing with calamities: from emphasizing early warning and early action to achieve minimum loss and quick recovery.

I am pleased to note that we are not alone in this. The DOST, the Department of Interior and Local Government, and the Office of Civil Defense of the Department of National Defense have teamed up to ensure that local communities are made safer using science and technology coupled with local knowledge from communities.

There are new tools available such as the latest high-resolution maps and flood modeling solutions, among others, to allow our scientists to study hazards and bring better forecast warnings down to communities.

But the use of these technologies extends far beyond disaster risk reduction. Allow me to give you an example. For one, in the agricultural sector, our various sensors now allow us to predict the ideal crops to plant, to empower farmers in maximizing their yield, and in effect, their potential profit. This is accomplished through our Smarter Agriculture program, wherein data we usually use in predicting the rainfall patterns, will be tied in with water moisture sensors on the ground. Given information on the composition of the soil, and knowledge on the ideal growing conditions for different crops, we can provide farmers with information on when they should harvest, what crops to plant, and how much water they should allocate to the crops that they are planting.

Best of all, this is not simple dreaming. We are doing this now in our pilot farms. Remember, this is just one of the examples, and there are a myriad of different technologies that we are already rolling out, which most of the participants here today, I am sure, are familiar with.

In closing, I would like to encourage everyone to actively participate in identifying interventions along the continuum of scientific activities that will lead to innovations across the full range of daily human living.

May the Forum and Exhibits bring us closer to the attainment of our goal harnessing S&T to meet national needs and address global challenges.

To our forum participants: Always be open to every possible source of good ideas. Breakthrough ideas often come from the outside, which is why it is important for us to bring you in close contact with high performers from fields other than your own.

Thank you, and may we have a lively, meaningful, and productive Scientific Forum. To our awardees, congratulations once again.

Thank you and good day.