DOST goes full throttle on developing tech with public’s welfare in mind

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 21 2020 12:32 AM | Updated as of Feb 21 2020 01:07 PM

MANILA—After sending 3 satellites into space in the past 5 years, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) is ramping up producing projects to further promote innovation in the country.

“We in DOST strongly believe that socio-economic development will only be achieved by embracing science and technology,” says Dr. Renato Solidum, DOST undersecretary and the Philippines’ head volcanologist, during the media launch of the agency’s Big 20 Technologies.

Solidum and DOST Secretary Fortunato de la Peña lament how science is not being prioritized in the Philippines, from getting only a 0.3 percent share of the national budget to not receiving headline treatment by media.

“The country is in need of vitamins, in need of nutrients and I think science can help address this,” De la Peña says, comparing the nation to a human being who looks good but “is not healthy.”

Despite such challenges, the country’s scientists and researchers continue to come up with innovative solutions that address many of the country’s basic problems.

Here are 20 of the science agency’s most interesting projects:

WAVE-POWERED SEA CRAFT

As nations attempt to curb carbon emissions because of the worsening effects of climate change, the Philippines is preparing to unveil its first ocean-wave powered fast sea craft. The vessel, named Hybrid Trimaran, is being built in a shipyard in Aklan through the Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development, Aklan State University, Metallica Shipyard and Marina.

Besides being powered by renewable energy, it has multi-engine technology to prevent engine failure and maritime accidents. It can carry 100 passengers, and up to 4 vans and 15 motorcycles. The DOST says it is a green and cost-effective alternative for imported and monohull vessels.

Photo courtesy of DOST-PCIEERD

BIOMEDICAL DEVICES: 1-HOUR DENGUE TEST

Among the biomedical devices being developed by the DOST is the Biotek-M Dengue Aqua Kit. This is a diagnostic test kit that can determine in an hour or less if a patient has dengue. It will be cheaper than devices currently being used for dengue diagnosis, something that will be helpful for a country such as the Philippines that has hundreds of thousands of dengue cases each year.

Together with University of the Philippines, the DOST is also developing ReliefVent, a cost-efficient ventilator and RxBox, a device that remotely captures medical signals and transmits information to hospitals.

Photo from DOST website

ANTI-DENGUE DRUG

Already announced last year, the first anti-dengue drug that is herbal-based could be made available to the public before the year ends. The DOST’s Tuklas Lunas Program is already funding its clinical study or Phase 1, which is slated to finish by April.

LIGHTNING RESEARCH

Dubbed ULAT, Understanding Lightning and Thunderstorms for Extreme Weather Monitoring and Information Sharing is the first time that the country’s experts are measuring lightning and clouds to improve the forecast of “extreme, short-term localized weather events.” The research will involve 50 lightning stations in Metro Manila and 10 outside the region.

TWO MORE CUBE SATELLITES

With the successful launch of Maya-1 — a 10-by-10-inch cube satellite — into space in 2018, the DOST’s Advanced Science and Technology Institute is now working on two improved versions that will be sent into space during the last quarter of the year.

The cube satellites, made by scholars of UP’s engineering graduate program, will test locally made components and demonstrate features that can be utilized during emergencies.

AUTOMATED GUN MOUNT

Through partnerships with the Philippine Navy and the Mechatronics and Robotics Society of the Philippines, the DOST is developing an automated gun mount called BUHAWI. The gun mount, which will be half the cost of gun mounts imported from Israel, will be for the heavy barrel Browning 0.50 caliber machine gun.

FROM ENGINES TO SMART CITIES

Other DOST-funded programs include the 12-horsepower, single-cylinder diesel engine, an affordable alternative to commercial brands used for farm mechanization. Previously located at the UP Diliman campus, the DOST’s Automated Guideway Transit, an elevated train system, is also being utilized by the Bataan Peninsula State University for its engineering programs.

For students, regional science discovery centers are being set up in Cagayan Valley, Pasig City, Butuan City, Legazpi City and Davao City. These science centrums will feature interactive exhibits to educate students about the benefits of science and technology.

DOST will also be supporting a Smart Cities program that will formulate a so-called Smart Index to capture data on the interaction between people, land, transportation system and economic activities. As part of the program, Cauayan City in Isabela, among the pilot areas, will be using electric scooters for local police patrols.

Also being promoted by the agency are:

  • the DOST-Food and Nutrition Research Institute’s NuGen Lab, 
  • the Forest Products Research and Development Institute’s Bamboo Musical Instruments Innovation Research and Development Program, 
  • DOST Region III’s Innovative Tissue Culture Laboratory for ornamental pants in Guiguinto, Bulacan, 
  • the first fully-automated Gamma Irradiation Facility of the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute, 
  • the Philippine Textile Research Institute’s Regional Yarn Production and Innovation Center, 
  • the Philippine Coconut Authority’s Coconut Somatic Embryogenesis Technology, 
  • the National Research Council of the Philippines’ books on the successes, experiences and impacts of scientists, doctors, engineers and entrepreneurs, 
  • HANDA PILIPINAS: Innovations in Disaster Risk Reduction and Response Expo in March 2020, 
  • the establishment of the Philippine Genome Center in Visayas by the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development, 
  • and the construction of facilities to improve competitiveness of businesses — from multi-industry innovation centers to green packaging laboratories.