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Pinay inventor shares stage with Obama, Alibaba's Jack Ma

President Barack Obama, center, poses for a photo with Alibaba founder Jack Ma, left, and Filipina scientist Aisa Mijeno following a discussion at the CEO Summit, attended by 800 business leaders from around the region representing U.S. and Asia-Pacific companies, in Manila, Philippines, Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2015, ahead of the start of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. AP/Susan Walsh

MANILA, Philippines - ​Aisa Mijeno, a Filipina entrepreneur who invented lamps powered by salt water, was lauded by US president Barack Obama during a forum at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Manila on Wednesday.

At the start of his session, Obama made a pitch for renewable energy, noting how big US businesses are saving billions of dollars by tapping into solar and other renewable energy sources. 

Obama said climate change could be viewed as a business opportunity, citing the efforts of young entrepreneurs and importance of capitalizing on them.

Obama cited Mijeno, an engineer who devised the sustainable and cost-effective lamp dubbed as the Sustainable Alternative Lighting (SALT) lamp, as a fine example of  "young entrepreneurs coming out with leapfrog technologies."

Inspired by the natives of the Butbut tribe in Kalinga who use kerosene lamps as source of light at night, Mijeno conceptualized a safe, cost-efficient, environmental friendly lamp, which functions by adding two tablespoons of salt on a glass of tap water. SALT which costs $20 each, can run for eight hours every day without  the hazards of a combustible fuel. With proper maintenance, it can last for six months.

"I wanted to address the light inequality gap, first in the Philippines, by focusing on the people at the bottom of the pyramid," said Mijeno.

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"Most of these families live on island, communities and they are not connected to power grids. So they mainly use kerosene and fuel based lamps as the main source of lighting...kerosene lamps cause fire accidents, it emits black carbon," she continued.

"We want to provide a lighting option that is more cost-effective, more safe, more sustainable and environmentally friendly by way of a lantern that uses saline solution or ocean water, as a catalyst to generate electricity, she added.

Asked by Obama what more can the government do to assist young entrepreneurs in doing sustainable innovations, Mijeno said,“We also need a lot of support in terms of funding. That’s our main challenge right now.”

"We have the passion, but we need a support system both from the private sector and government to mentor us and guide us," Mijeno explained.

The Filipina entrepreneur also backed Obama's claim, saying "Climate change is real and not a myth created by scientists to get funding."

"It is like cancer,” Mijeno said, citing the four stages of the disease: cell mutation, symptoms, manifest effects, and decline. “I believe we are at Stage 2."

Watch their full discussion below:


The SALT lamp has received various awards and recognition from organizations in the Philippines, Singapore, Japan and South Korea 


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