MANILA - Health researchers in the country, particularly those in the regions, may avail of the Regional Research Fund (RRF) that provides up to P1 million for every project, the Philippine Council for Health and Research of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST-PCHRD) said Thursday.
"Unlike the regular RND (research and development) grants provided by the council which supports big ticket research projects, the RRF is intended specifically for beginning researchers, especially those from the region so they will gain experience in conducting health research," DOST-PCHRD Institutional Development Division OIC Paula Jane De Leon said in a press conference.
The RRF may be availed by researchers in the regions whose proposals on addressing health problems have been approved. It allots up to P1 million for research projects with 6-12 months duration.
A maximum of three projects will be selected per region.
"Aside from funding, we also see this a way to build their capabilities in designing, implementing and managing health research projects," DOST-PCHRD Executive Director Dr. Jaime Montoya said.
Staff or faculty members of "research institutes, medical and paramedical schools, hospitals and other health related agencies" may apply for the RRF.
One of the research projects under the RRF is titled, "The Presence of Microplastics in the 5 most commonly sold fishes in Zamboanga City". It was conducted by Dr. Servando Halili Jr. at the Zamboanga State College for Marine Science.
"The project was expected to impact the preparation of fish as food, as well as have implications to public health and food security… They found that microplastics were present in the fish observed, which included Tulingan, Galunggong, Laosu, Talakitok and Yellow fin," said De Leon.
"Please note, so you will not worry: The study says the impact to human health needs further studies to be established. Concentration, types of plastic, affected tissues and individual sensitivity towards the particles are variables that can be explored in the future research," she added.
According to Halili, who is an associate professor in his college, "studies have shown that it is in almost lahat ng products na kinakain natin, kung saan saan siya."
But he is not recommending people to stop eating fish just because of his findings.
"If I’m gonna say, 'Stop eating fish', then we will stop eating altogether. Siguro ang step talaga is to really come up with measures that would mitigate pollution," he said.
Another study under RRF was conduted by Dr. Mona Lisa Lacson of the Angeles University Foundation. It is titled, "The Isolation and Characterization of Antibiotic producing endophytic microbes from weeds in a previous dumpsite in Pampanga".
"This aimed to look for alternative and novel antimicrobial agents from endophytes which can be used against common disease-causing microorganisms. Its impacts include serving as reference for the development of novel antibiotics," De Leon said.
Once researchers conclude their projects under RRF, De Leon said they can continue expanding their research.
"Yun ang aim ng aming program - parang seed fund ang binibigay namin… Pwede pa silang mag-apply para at least maka-establish ng track record niya and eventually maka-vie siya for big ticket projects. Kasi 'pag big ticket projects, ang pinag-uusapan doon ay millions of research funds na po," she said.
Both Halili and Lacson are planning to further their studies.
De Leon believes that the RRF can help with President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr.'s agenda of boosting science and technology.
"Sa pag-respond natin ngayon, lalo na we are in the pandemic, merong health challenges tayo, hindi lang national ang naka-centralize ang mga research programs natin kung hindi sa mga regions din. At sa regional level, we can already fund. Pwede ring makatulong ang mga regional researchers kahit bago pa," she said.
De Leon advised interested researchers to wait for call for proposals in the DOST offices in their respective regions, which happens twice a year: every January and October.