Science for the people. This is the vision of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) that involves the promotion of the culture of science, technology and innovation (STI) among the people, especially the youth.
This vision is being realized by making STI accessible to the biggest number Filipinos and reach the regions, even the remotest areas, all over the country.
This is being carried out by dispersing and supporting various technologies and innovations to entrepreneurs, and scholarships to students in order to help them in their livelihoods and progress in life.
In its year-end report for 2020, “Leading Science, Technology and Innovation for Inclusive Growth and Development in the Time of Covid-19,” the DOST said its regional offices conceptualized and successfully launched new or revitalized programs in 2020 for continued implementation in the coming year.
Despite of, or in response to the crisis brought by the Covid-19 pandemic, when mobility was hampered by lockdowns and quarantines, the DOST offices were able to implement or adapt in their execution of the programs.
The Science department, through its agency, the Science Education Institute (SEI), also continued to provide scholarships that aim to produce and develop high-quality human resources, who will take active participation and leadership roles in the country’s S&T.
It also adapted some scholarship programs based on the limitations posed by the pandemic.
The DOST, led by Science Sec. Fortunato de la Peña, enumerated in the report the various programs and projects which the department implemented in the regions and its scholarship programs last year.
Pushing growth in the regions through S&T
In the regions, among the programs implemented are the Innovations for Filipinos Working Distantly from the Philippines (iFWD PH), Innovation, Science and Technology for Accelerating Regional Technology-Based Development (iSTART), Grassroots Innovation for Inclusive Development (GRIND), Small Enterprise Technology Upgrading Program (Setup), and the implementation of the Community Empowerment thru Science and Technology (CEST).
iFWD PH aims to provide a package of S&T interventions, enhance the capability of qualified overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in conceptualizing technology-based businesses and preparing business plans, and assist OFWs in establishing and managing technology-based enterprises.
As of October 30, 2020, 59 OFWs have graduated from the Phase 1 of the program through trainings on the development and management of the enterprises.
Preparatory sessions for the Phase 2 had technical consultancies and training-workshop on product development, process mapping, etc.
For the Phase 2, OFW-beneficiaries will be provided with innovation-enabling fund to assist them to acquire equipment for their technology-based enterprises. Other S&T services will also be made available to them.
The program has also caught the interest of so-called angel investors from the private sector, or investors who provide initial capital for a business start-up.
iSTART supports balanced development geographically by accelerating regional growth through STI.
The program assists local government units in developing a technology-based development plan for the agri-based, manufacturing and services sectors; attract new technology-based investments in accordance with the validated plans in collaboration with LGUs; and engage researchers, scientists and engineers to support technology-based investments and projects in the region.
The program makes use of the University of the Philippines Planning and Development Research Foundation Inc. (UP-Planades) development model, a DOST funded study, to identify growth areas in the country.
The planning officers of provincial governments of identified growth areas were trained on the use of the UP-Planades development model.
In the first batch of the training in August, a total of 317 DOST-sponsored and 428 non-DOST-sponsored individuals from LGUs, government-owned and controlled corporations, academe and the private sector attended the training.
The pilot implementation of iSTART in Region VIII has already yielded results. It has finalized the STI framework and strategies to help accelerate provincial economic development.
These will be integrated into the existing Leyte Provincial Development Plan for the province’s economic development strategies.
The Eastern Visayas State University, DOST VIII and Leyte provincial LGU have also put up an indoor smart farm using the technology introduced by a Balik Scientist Dr. Joel Cuello.
GRIND’s pilot implementation that was launched in the second half of 2019 has already yielded results.
The program is aimed at promoting inclusive growth and reducing poverty and inequality through the development of grassroots innovation ecosystem in the country.
Setup has funded 475 new projects amounting to P499 million from January to September 2020. The interventions provided by the DOST regional offices through Setup resulted in the generation of 2,438 jobs and P2.3-billion sales.
It registered a total 4,660 S&T interventions, benefitting 7,370 firms and other entities.
Setup 4.0 that was launched in November, was set to be implemented in 2021. Under this enhanced version of Setup Program, micro, small and medium enterprises will be categorized based on their level of development and will be provided with S&T interventions based on their needs.
Setup also has online support services—oneSTore, oneExpert (1E) and One Stop Laboratory Services for Global Competitiveness (oneLab).
As of 30 September 2020, the e-commerce platform of oneSTore in the regions has helped market 13,454 products of DOST-assisted firms.
There are currently 28 oneSTore hubs all over the country. It has recorded around 4.5-million hits and sold P262 -million worth of local products.
Meanwhile, oneExpert, an interactive web-based nationwide pool of S&T experts intended to provide technical advice and consultancy services to Filipinos, already has 822 registered S&T experts.
As of September 30, 2020, 1E recorded 264,600 web site visits; 70,760 online clients and unique visits; and 50 queries received and responded.
OneLab provided 135,763 testing and calibration services to 54,641 customers and 13,861 firms. The total fees it collected amounted to P86-million while the gratis services were valued at P4.8-million.
CEST assisted 24 new communities last year that brought to 374 the total CEST communities since 2013.
There were a total of 106 CEST livelihood projects and assistance amounting to P39-million in 2020.
Developing S&T human resource pool
The DOST-SEI implemented the following scholarship programs in 2020:
The Science and Technology Scholarship Act of 1994, or Republic Act 7687, enabled the scholarship program to reach 98 percent of the country’s municipalities and congressional districts with at least one DOST-SEI scholar.
This resulted in a total of 35,091 undergraduate and graduate scholars (28,900 BS, 4,264 MS, and 1,927 PhD), including those under the Bangon Marawi Program.
In response to the destruction of Marawi City after the so-called Battle of Marawi in May 2017, the DOST-SEI put up the Bangon Marawi Program in Science and Technology Human Resource Development to help rebuild and rehabilitate the city’s human and social infrastructures, particularly in the S&T human sector.
The scholars in this program were awarded in two batches— 247 scholars in batch 1, and 207 in batch 2.
The number of scholars under Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) and Philippine Science High School (PSHS) increased by 5 percent from 42,190 in schoolyear (SY) 2019-2020 to 44,398 in SY2020-2021.
The DOST, through SEI, collaborated with the Department of Education (DepEd) to enhance STEM learning for elementary pupils through the “RadyoEskwela sa Siyensya,” and for high school students through “TuklaSiyensya sa Eskwela” programs. Teachers Guides are also available for both programs.
“RadyoEskwela sa Siyensya” features story-based science lessons aired by a network of community radio.
It consists of 20 episodes of 30-minute length each. They were produced for early, primary and intermediate elementary clustered grade levels.
The episodes may be replayed by regional stations and offered to the DepEd as learning resources for pupils for distance-learning mode anytime during the school year.
Meanwhile, TuklasSyensya produced 15 science lessons, each running for 30 minutes to 45 minutes. Uploaded to an online platform, the lessons are made available to formal and informal learners anytime.
The topics include aerospace engineering, geological hazards, oceanography, and nanotechnology, among others.
The DOST secondary, undergraduate and graduate scholars continued to receive their scholarship privileges during the year.
Existing policies were reviewed and revised accordingly to help the DOST scholars better cope with the changes and adjustments that PSHS and the universities have to undertake in the wake of the pandemic.
New admission policies were also adapted for PSHS scholars in lieu of the usual National Competitive Exams taken by aspiring PSHS students.
The new system was formulated to prevent the spread of Covid-19 among thousands of examinees who will gather in testing sites across the country.
Admission in the country’s premier science high school shall be through the Pisay Requirement for Admission, Criteria and Evaluation.