EDITORIAL – Filipino innovators
(The Philippine Star) - November 24, 2015 - 9:00am

She nearly failed to make it to the event because she was not a registered delegate and lacked an ID card. But US President Barack Obama sent his Secret Service agents to escort Aisa Mijeno to her place of honor on stage with him and e-commerce firm Alibaba founder Jack Ma.

The event was the CEO summit at last week’s annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders’ gathering in Manila. For most Filipinos, it was the first time that they learned about the invention of Mijeno: a lamp that runs on saline solution, appropriately named SALt, for Sustainable Alternative Lighting.

Another Filipino in fact beat Mijeno by three years, applying for a patent for a similar invention called the Tubig Power lamp in 2012. Stevenson Rejuso is still waiting for the approval of his patent by the Intellectual Property Office.

Rejuso and Mijeno have a common lament: they have not received sufficient support from the Department of Science and Technology. Rejuso submitted a prototype of his lamp to the DOST and has not heard from the department since then.

Mijeno, a member of the engineering faculty at De La Salle University in Lipa, Batangas, has received some support from the private sector, notably the conglomerate of Manuel V. Pangilinan. The boost courtesy of Obama may also help her raise start-up funding to mass-produce her invention. But her story highlights the need for more government investment in supporting scientific and technological research and development.

Other countries are pouring resources into encouraging innovation in all aspects of national life. The Philippines is not lacking in innovation and creativity. Foreigners at least are taking notice. A report this week said the Thai princess had recognized the inventions of William Moraca, an elementary school principal in General Santos City. Moraca developed a portable windmill, modified solar panel and a water system powered by magnetic field that are providing electricity and clean water to the B’laan and T’boli indigenous communities.

There must be other unsung innovators out there, waiting not so much for national recognition but for seed funding and government support to mass-produce their inventions for the benefit of the masses. It shouldn’t take a US president or a Thai princess to give Filipino innovators what they need.

AISA MIJENO ANOTHER FILIPINO ASIA-PACIFIC ECONOMIC COOPERATION DE LA SALLE UNIVERSITY DEPARTMENT OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY GENERAL SANTOS CITY INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY OFFICE JACK MA MANUEL V MIJENO PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA
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