Co-organized by the National Research Council of the Philippines (NRCP) and the Ministry of Science and Technology - Bangsomoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (MOST-BARMM), the first wave of the NRCP Regional Basic Research Caravan (RBRC) was completed in BARMM on April 08, 2021—accentuated with the formulation of the Research and Development (R&D) Agenda in the region as the promising next step.

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Group photo of some participants in the Regional Basic Research Caravan Bangsomoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

With the theme Nurturing Regional R&D Niches, the NRCP showcased a total of 17 region-anchored RBRCs throughout the country—with Batanes as its launching point in August 2019.

“The RBRC was affected by the first major lockdown in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This did not stop the NRCP from reorganizing an online mode to serve the seven remaining regions in the country, which includes the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao,” says Prof. Fortunato T. de la Peña, Secretary of the Department of Science and Technology.

RBRC and the NRCP Membership Promotion

Through the RBRCs, the Council has heightened its membership promotions in the regions which may help in strengthening the pool of researches, scientists, engineers, and artists (RSEAs) in the country. Recent NRCP report says that the RBRC, along with colleague referrals, is one of the most effective strategies in increasing membership.

Dr. Marieta Bañez Sumagaysay, Council’s Executive Director, emphasized the important role of NRCP members in enriching science culture in the regions for local development, for nation-building, and for global competitiveness.

The Council has now around 5000 members who are experts in a wide array of fields—where majority comes from the National Capital Region, while only 0.6% comes from BARMM.

“I am confident that we can increase this 0.6% NRCP membership in BARMM. The Council will continue to empower RSEAs of BARMM, and will be a partner in R&D capability building through its programs such as RDlead and NSTEP programs,” Sumagaysay added.

Mary Charlotte O. Fresco, NRCP Science Research Specialist II, also discussed the criteria and procedures on how to become an NRCP member.

Promotion of Science Culture

The RBRC serves as a noteworthy avenue when it comes to promotion of scientific research culture in the regions. In this regional stop, Dr. Alvin B. Culaba, former NRCP President and a Distinguished Full Professor at De La Salle University, presented the results of the NRCP-funded study entitled, “Sustainability Assessment of Algae-based Biofuels in the Philippines.”

Microalgae (or “lumot” in vernacular) are microorganisms that thrive through carbon dioxide and sunlight. These are available from natural sources, or can be cultivated through photobioreactor and cultivation ponds. Microalgae also contain lipids that can be converted to energy, such as biofuels.

Culaba, together with other Filipino scientists, is working in the conversion of these biomaterials to biodiesel and in the commercialization of algal fuel which is still a gridlock until now.

“We are targeting to establish a strategy in the potential implementation of algal biofuels in the Philippines leading to environmental and energy policies,” Culaba underscored.

NRCP continues to provide policy consultations on various issues—ranging from environmental protection and sustainable development, promotion of scientific education and culture, and information technology, to gender equality and governance.

NRCP opens partnership with MOST in the formulation of Bangsamoro Priority Research and Development Agenda

The NRCP will aid MOST-BARMM in crafting the Bangsamoro Priority Research and Development Agenda that contributes to the second of the BARMM government’s 12 Point Agenda that is, “Review, integrate and harmonize the Bangsamoro Development Plan (BDP), the Regional Development of BARMM, the camp Transformation Plan, and other Bangsamoro plans to make them responsive to the current and pressing needs.”  This is also consistent with the eighth development goals identified in the BDP, which is to “improve ecological integrity, and promote and enhance climate change adaptation, and disaster risk reduction to sustain resilience of communities in the Bangsamoro.”

“I could not hide my excitement towards the realization of these cherished goals. Together, we can make a difference and steer the wheel of development,” said Engr. Aida M. Silongan, Minister of the MOST-BARMM.

NRCP also supports the local government units by providing research-supported advice and expertise on problems and issues faced by the LGUs. It remains committed in supporting the conduct of local research by helping capacitate the budding RSEAs and the younger generations pursue research relative to their interests.

The Council continues working to reorient the education and research institutions toward the nation’s current agendas for research: The Harmonized National R&D Agenda (HNRDA) and the National Basic Research Agenda (NIBRA). These are all aligned to the President’s 10-point socioeconomic agenda and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs until 2030.

Expanding Regional Experts

Marfy Lita, NRCP Program Development Officer, oriented the participants on the RD Leadership Program that provides trainings and mentorship. In its first two years of implementation, the RD Lead program has already engaged 32 institutions in 16 regions, with the assistance of 36 RD Leaders. For BARMM, the Councils provided two RDLeaders: Dr. Floredel D. Galon for Mindanao State University -Tawi-tawi (NICER Proposal Development for the Establishment of a Seaweed R&D Center); and, Dr. Eureka Theresa Ocampo for Tawi-tawi Regional Agricultural College (Capacity Development of TRAC Faculty and Personnel).

Sumagaysay also announced the NRCP Call for Proposals for 2023 funding which will run from May 3 to June 3, 2021.

The last stop of RBRC—attended by more than 300 participants (40% Male and 60% Female)—was also graced by NRCP Vice President Dr. Cristine Villagonzalo, who officially announced plans for a second wave of the RBRC.

In this research caravan, the Council also partnered with state universities and colleges in BARMM and Northern Mindanao—Cotabato City State Polytechnic College, Hardam Furigay Colleges Foundation, Mahardika Institute of Technology Incorporated (MIT), Mindanao Autonomous College Foundation Incorporated (MACFI), Mindanao State University-Maguindanao, MSU-Iligan Institute of Technology, MSU Marawi, MSU Sulu, MSU Tawi-tawi, Notre Dame of Jolo, Sulu State University, and Upi Agricultural School— to assist them in increasing the NRCP membership in their respective institutions.

NRCP will open the second wave of RBRC in the second half of 2021.