AGHAM celebrates young Filipino scientists’ skills, laments lack of genuine S&T support on World Science Day

November 11, 2015

By AGHAM

On the occasion of the World Science Day for Peace and Development (WSDPD), scientist activist organization AGHAM – Advocates of Science and Technology for the People celebrated the talent and ingenuity of young Filipino scientists with an exhibit of research projects of students from the Colleges of Science and Engineering of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines – Main Campus in Sta. Mesa, Manila.

“Despite the general lack of facilities and the glaring difference in science education between the Philippines and other countries, Filipino science students are able to come up with world-class research. We should celebrate these products of perseverance and ingenuity,” explains JM Ayuste, a biologist from AGHAM.

Among the research on display is a machine for the automated production of bioplastic, or plastic from biological raw materials, from banana peels. This was made by students of the College of Engineering and Architecture of the PUP.

Data from the DepEd show that in the National Capital Region alone, there are only 3 science laboratories for every 10 public elementary schools. The impact of this dearth of science facilities is reflected in our students’ science and math performance: in the last Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study that the Philippines participated in 2003, we ranked 34th out of 38 countries in high school Math and 43rd out of 46 countries in high school Science. In 2008 when only science high schools participated in the study, we ranked lowest among 10 countries in Advanced Mathematics. Despite this, Filipino science students have made their mark in the international scene.

The WSDPD is an annual event celebrated worldwide every November 10 since its establishment by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in 2001. The event aims to renew national and international commitments to science for peace and development and to stress the responsible use of science for the benefit of society. This year, the theme for WSDPD is “Science for a Sustainable Future.”

“Science is a powerful tool that can aid in ensuring a sustainable world for future generations. In the present context where private corporate interests are gaining increasing control over S&T, it is also used as a tool to extract the most profit regardless of its social and environmental costs, ” said Ayuste.

In August, the Policy Partnership on Science, Technology and Innovation (PPSTI), a working and cooperative group of the APEC formed in 2012, held a meeting which, among other things, highlighted its mandate to push for a ‘market-based innovation policy in support of commercialization’ through the promotion of public-private partnerships (PPPs). Under this framework, endeavors of the S&T community such as the genetic mapping of our indigenous flora and fauna will be funded and utilized by corporate interests, such as pharmaceutical companies, which places the general direction of research under the control of private interests. This is already set to take place under the National Program on Wealth Creation from Biodiversity Genetic Resources being pushed by the DOST and DENR.

“Without basic and nationalized industries, our best scientific programs will only serve the private interests of mostly foreign-funded or transnational companies and will not directly reflect the basic needs of the populace. In the absence of a program for genuine national industrialization, which will cover everything from the production of energy, basic metals and plastics to the processing and manufacture of finished goods, most of our scientists and researchers end up doing basic research or being highly specialized workers for foreign interests, if they stay at all,” explains Ayuste.

“Amid the backdrop of an increasing commercialization of science, where research is dictated by what is considered ‘profitable’ and ‘marketable’, we should encourage young scientists to use their talents to address the needs of the most marginalized sectors in society. And to be able to truly, genuinely use science in the service of the people, we should push for national industrialization and for scientists to immerse themselves with the masses to learn from them and be more intimately aware of their most pressing needs,” ends Ayuste.

To mark the day, AGHAM in partnership with the PUP Institute for Science and Technology Research also held a forum featuring inputs from AGHAM chairperson Dr. Giovanni Tapang and Ms. Maricres Pagaran, officer in charge of the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development or ALCADEV in Mindanao.#
WSDPD Exhibit
Visitors viewing the WSDPD exhibit showcasing various science posters, photos and technological innovations developed by PUP students.
WSDPD 2015
Some participants posing for a snapshot after the WSDPD 2015 forum.