National Scientist Angel Alcala passes away at 93

Raffy Cabristante, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 01 2023 06:56 PM

Silliman University
National Scientist Angel Alcala. Silliman University/handout

MANILA — National Scientist and former Environment Secretary Angel Alcala has passed away, his alma mater Silliman University (SU) announced Wednesday. He was 93.

"SU mourns the loss of a scientist, administrator, trustee, professor, morally upright family man, and public servant," the institution said in a statement.

A native of Cauayan, Negros Occidental, Alcala was best known for his contributions to the field of Philippine marine sciences, pioneering the creation of marine protected areas (MPA) across the country. 

Alcala was a prominent professor at SU, where he obtained his bachelor's degree in Biology in 1951, magna cum laude. He started his teaching career after obtaining his master's and doctorate degrees from Stanford University in the United States in 1960 and 1966.

He also co-created the SU Institute of Environmental and Marine Sciences, which is considered one of the country's leading research centers in the said field.

He is also known for leading the concept of community-based coastal resource management in the promotion of marine biodiversity, and the use of artificial reefs as models for fisheries development in the Philippines.

Alcala also led extensive research on Philippine amphibians and reptiles since the mid-1950s, which led to the discovery of 50 additional species out of the 400 known species in the country, SU said.

He was SU's ninth president from 1991 to 1992, before he left the position to serve under the administration of the late President Fidel V. Ramos as Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary.

From 1995 to 1999, he was chairman of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED).

For his contributions to Philippine biology, former President Benigno Aquino III named Alcala as a National Scientist in 2014. He was also a recipient of the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Public Service in 1992, and was named an ASEAN Biodiversity Hero in 2017.

Alcala remained an advocate for local marine life in his final years. In 2021, he was among the academics that vocally opposed the proposed 174-hectare coastal reclamation project in Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental.

"Dr. Alcala’s work and service, for and with SU, have greatly contributed to SU being the Christian higher educational institution it is today. Without Dr. Angel C. Alcala, SU would not have been able to make the same impact. For these, SU will forever be grateful," SU said in a statement

As a tribute for Alcala, SU placed its flag at half-mast in its campus.