DOST sets research sights for 2020
Rainier Allan Ronda (The Philippine Star) - January 16, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) will push for more extensive and technical research and development initiatives on natural resource conservation as it seeks to ensure that R&D funds go to projects that benefit the people as well as the planet.

Science Secretary Fortunato dela Peña said that by supporting R&D on environment conservation and rehabilitation, the DOST can further showcase how S&T and R&D improve lives and the economic wellbeing of people, and thus encourage more public and private sector investments as well as innovation.

“For me, Pope Francis made a timely reminder through his encyclical ‘Laudato Si.’ In that encyclical, he is saying that we should listen not just to the cry of people but also to the cry of our Mother Earth,” Dela Peña said.

He said that for 2020, the DOST was giving high priority to an advocacy for closer monitoring of Laguna de Bay and rehabilitation of the lake.

The DOST will also intensify efforts to promote the use of locally developed technologies that were also supported by DOST through R&D funding assistance to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

The DOST had provided substantial funding to a two-year University of the Philippines study that showed the presence of heavy metals and other toxic substances in Laguna de Bay, which serves as a source of food and water for the Greater Manila area.

Dela Peña said the DOST is ready to play a support role to the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA) on any action it will take to address the results of the UP study.

Laguna de Bay is the largest lake in the Philippines and third largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia. It is surrounded by the provinces of Laguna and Rizal, and also Metro Manila. It has area of around 76,000 hectares and 3.2 billion cubic meters of water. The lake is an important source for fishing, irrigation and domestic water needs; it is also a temporary reservoir as well as water transport route.

Water concessionaires Maynilad and Manila Water source some of their water from Laguna de Bay. The water, however, is periodically contaminated by algae.

The DOST, through the Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Resource and Development (PCIEERD), in partnership with the LLDA, had commissioned the UP scientists’ study project called SCALE or Synergistic Capacity Advancement in the Management of Laguna Lake study in 2018.

The PCIEERD had provided P55.5 million for the SCALE study.

While it established the presence of potentially harmful pollutants like antibiotics, steroid hormones, industrial chemicals, fecal bacteria, protozoa and heavy metals in Laguna Lake, the SCALE study showed that most are still within the limits of water quality standards set forth by law.

The SCALE study had three components or projects that zeroed in on the presence and volume of a group of potentially harmful pollutants. One of the projects focused on the intake of pollutants of the fish farmed in fishpens in Laguna Lake.

Fortunately, the results of this research showed that the presence of heavy metals in the fish in the lake, such as bangus or milkfish and tilapia, was within the “dosage” of international bodies, making it still safe for human consumption as long as within a certain volume a day.

“The study, which established lower concentrations of pollutants when compared to other parts of the world, is a good start for more in-depth studies,” said Mylene Cayetano, a professor from the UP Institute of Environmental Science and Meteorology who led the third team of scientists that studied the presence of heavy metals in fish in Laguna de Bay.

The study noted that the mean arsenic content in bangus samples remains high in both dry and wet season, and higher than tilapia. The daily human intake of lead and cadmium in tilapia and bangus does not exceed the guideline limits set by the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization.

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