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Message of Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda 87th Founding Anniversary of the National Research Council of the Philippines (December 10, 2020)

December 22, 2020

Message of Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda

87th Founding Anniversary

NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL OF THE PHILIPPINES

Department of Science and Technology

 

Theme: Affirming the Mandate of the NRCP in the New Normal

December 10, 2020 

DOST Secretary Fortunato T. de la Peña, DOST Undersecretary for Research & Development Rowena Cristina L. Guevara, and other DOST Undersecretaries, Assistant Secretaries, Heads of the DOST attached agencies, National Scientists, National Artists, Academicians, National Research Council of the Philippines President Dr. Gregorio E.H. Del Pilar, members of the NRCP governing board, NRCP members, and personnel of the NRCP, distinguished guests, good morning to all of you! 

Let me express my warmest congratulations to the NRCP on its 87th founding anniversary. I am honored to have been invited to mark the 87th year of the NRCP.  It is now an octogenarian, contributing to the country’s progress through basic research and evidence-based policy-making for nearly nine decades. I salute the people behind NRCP from 1933 up to the present time. To all the researchers, artists, scientists, engineers, administrators, and the employees – my sincerest appreciation and deepest admiration for all your work!

When I entered the realm of public service as Senator in 1998, my advocacies were crystal clear: women and children, indigenous peoples’ rights and their culture, and the integrity of our environment. Throughout my decades as a journalist and as a legislator, I have known first-hand how accurate and reliable data and information play a crucial role in developing solutions to pressing national problems. Hence, I am fully appreciative of the NRCP, and of course all those who have supported this small agency all these years.

NRCP has, under its purview, research areas in the social sciences, humanities, and the arts, on top of the natural sciences and engineering areas – the only DOST council to have them – and I believe these research fields are of equal importance in pursuing our national development agenda. 

Research plays a critical role in our national life.  Where would we be if we do not engage in pursuing and appreciating factual or research-based, relevant, and timely information?  Though not a full-time researcher myself, I fully understand that research and development are some of the most potent tools that can make change happen in our daily lives.

Many of the things we enjoy today are products of research and hard work of great thinkers, scientists, and artists who had the courage to go beyond what they see. Their efforts may have started small, like the conduct of a basic research or a simple creative work just to satisfy a curiosity or artistic urge. These efforts are like ripples resulting from throwing a pebble in water, whose effects continue to make waves of innovative, creative, and life-changing breakthroughs in the fields of science and the arts. 

I am mindful that a Council is made up of warm bodies, people who have quietly worked behind the scenes all these decades to support and put forward basic research initiatives that started those ripples that led to the waves of breakthroughs and innovations we see today.

I could go on praising you but it is in the stories and outcomes where the proof of your success lies.   Of the numerous research projects that NRCP conducted, three (3) of these strongly connected with me and for which I would like to mention the researchers’ names.

First, a study titled Marine Sediment Derived Actinobacteria from Islands of Luzon, Palawan, Mindanao, and Eastern Visayas and their Antimicrobial Activities by Dr. Doralyn S. Dalisay and her team from the University of San Agustin in Iloilo City led to the isolation of 3,450 marine-sediment derived Actinobacteria. Thirty-eight (38) of these are considered as lead isolates having antimicrobial activities. This is a source of hope for us and most especially our children in preparation for dealing with future outbreaks or diseases.  The COVID-19 pandemic has almost broken our societies and economies and we fervently hope this will lead to prevention and cures.  It truly has been a trying year for the world, but coming across this research is somewhat reassuring that we are going in the right direction. We definitely need to continue investing in research initiatives like the continuous discovery of potential sources of antibiotics. I fervently hope that all researchable areas arising from this topic will continue to be explored and supported.

The second NRCP – supported study that struck a chord with me as an advocate of indigenous people’s rights and culture is the Resilient Music at the Margins: Traditional Music of Mindanao, Sulu and Palawan under the Ang Tinig Natin Program of the National Integrated Basic Research Agenda. This study was headed by Dr. José S. Buenconsejo of the College of Music, University of the Philippines Diliman and has resulted in the documentation, preservation and conduct  of cultural studies on indigenous and traditional knowledge and practices of several IP groups in Mindanao:  Manobo Dulangan, T’boli, Obo, Tagakaolo, Sulud-Bukidnon, Palawanun. I cannot overemphasize my enthusiasm to learn more, because knowing more  about our multicultural  traditions is the  fuel that keeps me and the team behind the docuseries “Dayaw” going, despite all the odds. As we say in the show, Our Knowledge, Our Pride. It is on this note that I challenge the NRCP and other researchers from the field of humanities and the arts to continue to reach more indigenous groups in the Philippines in conducting similar and related studies.  We need to appreciate the value of generations of observations and oral traditions to see that there is also hard science in indigenous knowledge.  But let us also ensure that we do not commit the sins of cultural appropriation and ensure free, prior and informed consent  as well as benefit sharing.

Lastly, the research project titled Bioremediation Strategies for Rehabilitation of Abandoned Mine Tailing Area in Mogpog, Marinduque by Dr. Nelly S. Aggangan from the University of the Philippines Los Baños led to the start of the rehabilitation and greening efforts of an abandoned and unproductive mined-out area in Marinduque. I am a staunch but pragmatic environmentalist and I am keen on seeing how we can upscale these findings.  The bioremediation protocol that resulted from the study was already adopted by the local government unit. I hope the NRCP, without affecting its independence, can also benefit from the Final Mine Rehabilitation and Decommissioning Plan (FRMDP) funds of the mining industry.  All mines are supposed to have approved FRMDP that is fully funded.

This shows very encouraging prospects for restoring the areas in the country that may be left barren and unproductive after mining contracts in these areas end. According to the data reported by the Australian Trade and Investment Commission, of the country’s more than 30 million hectares of land, 872 thousand hectares is covered by mining tenements/leases. If the Environmental Protection and Enforcement Bill which I filed is passed, we can be assured that the law requiring miners to restore ecosystems can be implemented.  But if even half of these 872 thousand hectares will be left in a sorry state 20 years from now, I am glad that we can say we have the technology to rehabilitate and there will be no more excuses.

Research is not foreign to me as it is how we pursued facts when we create and present our stories. When I became a legislator, it was a challenge trying to formulate legislative solutions to problems when there is lack of research. There is still a lot of work to be done to mainstream and normalize evidence-based legislation in policymaking. We legislators welcome research results to help us carry out our task more effectively and efficiently.  I have personally emphasized that researchers must present their findings in practical and accessible means and language.

We appreciate that the number of research findings communicated to us continue to increase. I have always believed that we should not forget basic research as they serve as the foundation of the greater things that we aspire to reach. Applied researchers have to stand on the shoulders of these giants to achieve their own results. Given its importance, I believe it is high time that we all endeavor to advocate for the conduct of more basic research initiatives, oriented towards providing solutions for our national and social problems of our country, region, and communities. 

Admittedly, there is still a huge void in information pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic and even the worsening threat of climate change. As we face these challenging times, we need to look into ways by which we can help and support the initiatives of the government. I understand that NRCP has been aggressively addressing the other side of the pandemic – the social dimensions – which brings to the fore the people’s emotions, feelings and behaviors, analysis of government policies and issuances regarding the pandemic and rapid assessment of the impact of the pandemic on ten ecotourism sites in the Philippines to name a few. Further, it is worthy to note that NRCP has already started looking into a very important activity that has played a big role in our coping mechanisms related to work – that of the work-from-home scheme alongside gender issues. With my advocacies, I can relate very well to the research initiatives of NRCP in this time of the COVID pandemic. 

I invite you to explore more subject matters related to the climate emergency, one which the House of Representatives already acknowledged as the current status of the planet and the country in a Resolution adopted in Plenary last week.

Today, I take this opportunity as a legislator, to call on all the members of the NRCP, its management, the DOST, the academic and artistic communities, and the various research institutions to continue working with us despite the odds we all face. As much as there are obstacles to overcome, there are opportunities to seize to enable all of us to march towards a better Philippines for our generation and the future generations to come.

Congratulations and mabuhay to the National Research Council of the Philippines! 

Thank you again for this opportunity and good day to all of you!