Obama hails Pinay scientist's saltwater lamp

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at Nov 18 2015 03:53 PM | Updated as of Nov 18 2015 04:16 PM

MANILA – US President Barack Obama hailed a Filipina scientist's invention, a lamp that runs on saltwater, as the US leader made a push for the use of renewable energy ahead of a crucial meeting in Paris that will weigh heavily on the future of the earth. 

During a light moment at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) CEO Summit, Obama admired De La Salle University faculty member Aisa Mijeno for making the aspirations of ordinary people as her inspiration in coming up with an invention that provides a very basic necessity that is also environmentally sustainable.

''One of the most important things you said, in my mind at least, is that this starts from the bottom,'' Obama told Mjieno.

''If we're working at the grassroots level, seeing what folks need and figuring out efficient way how to deliver an improved quality of life while being environmentally sustainable, that's an enormous opportunity. But it starts at looking at the aspiration and hopes of ordinary people."

Mijeno's multi-awarded SALt (Sustainable Alternative Lighting) lamp runs on saltwater and can last for up to 8 hours before the saline solution inside it requires replacement.

''The main science behind the lamp is it’s a chemical reaction. You try to convert chemical reaction into energy. There's something inside the lamp and you have to change it, but you only have to change every 6 months if you are using the lamp 8 hours a day,'' Mijeno explained to Obama.

Mijeno said the idea of the SALt lamp was conceived when she visited mountain communities in Kalinga, where people had to walk for hours a day just to get kerosene to power their lamps.

Obama, in turn, said Mijeno is a ''perfect example of what we're seeing in a lot of countries – young entrepreneurs coming up with leapfrog technologies."

''They did not have to make some of the massive infra investments. This is part of the reason why the old idea of development and environmental sustainability is outdated. It does raise the issue though of what we can do support young entrepreneurs like Aisa,'' he said.

Obama said governments should provide tax incentives for those producing renewable and alternative sources of energy and help and provide support for research and development.

Mijeno said the SALt lamp project is now on its critical phase as she and her team attempt to mass produce the lamp.

''What we need is support from the private sector and the government to mentor us how we can scale up the project, [give] support in terms of funding,'' she said.


In his speech during the summit, Obama said renewable technology is the way to go with traditional sources of energy threatening the earth's climate.

Obama will attend a climate change conference in Paris, France by the end of the month where world leaders will craft a legally binding agreement on lowering carbon emissions.

Obama said the climate change conference would provide ''opportunities'' for businesses because the agreement will usher in ''new jobs and opportunities and an investment in technology that frankly needs a boost right now.''

''The urgent and growing threat of climate change is a challenge but also, I would argue, an opportunity,'' he said.

''An ambitious agreement in Paris will prompt investors to invest in clean energy technologies because they will understand the world is committed to a low-carbon future.''

The Philippines has already submitted its climate change mitigation and adaptation plan to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Obama said more than 160 countries, representing 90 percent of global emissions, have put forward climate targets for post-2020.

The Philippines had earlier said it would cut the archipelago nation's carbon emissions by 70 percent by 2030 but only if it receives support from developed nations.