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Lake Lanao is one of the water resources in Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. (Photo copyright belongs to Province of Lanao del Sur.)

 

Water security is one of the six (6) top priorities of the National Integrated Basic Research Agenda (NIBRA) of the National Research Council of the Philippines (NRCP).

This may address the concern of the seventy percent (70%) of a recently-concluded survey where respondents said that the quality water supply is the top issue in Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

Engr. Benbellah-Ali Y. Dandamun, Research and Development (R&D) Assistant from the Ministry of Science and Technology - BARMM, shared the survey results during the NRCP Regional Basic Research Caravan for BARMM last April 08, 2021—attended by more than 300 participants wherein 40% are male, and 60% are female.

Despite being known for its richness in water resources such as Lake Lanao, the majority of the households in the region do not have access to safe water. The inadequate supply of clean water, both potable and non-potable, may lead to serious health consequences where most communities are at risk of waterborne illnesses.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2016, one of the top 10 leading causes of death in the Philippines was Acute Watery Diarrhea claimed over 139,000 lives.

The Survey Results

MOST-BARMM asked researchers from across five (5) provinces in the region—including Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi—to identify local community problems for possible research generation. Researchers, who pointed out water quality concerns, are rooting for future studies on the availability and accessibility of groundwater sources—the 'invisible critical resource.'

A majority of researchers also believe that the reliance on petroleum as a source of non-renewable energy could spark Bangsamoro lives—especially in the hinterland communities. These respondents cited the importance of research on natural resources, such as algae-based biofuels, as an alternative to biodiesel and gasoline.

Results also reveal the call to heighten the documentation of indigenous knowledge and grassroots education.

Another key finding shows the need to capacitate the Halal food innovation centers.

“The results of the survey will help us generate responsive R&D projects or programs that can be implemented in the region,” says NRCP Executive Director, Dr. Marieta Bañez Sumagaysay.

MOST-BARMM will use the survey results in the formulation of the Regional R&D Agenda, in partnership with the Local Government Units (LGUs), the State Universities and Colleges (SUCs), and the NRCP.

Guided by the NIBRA, the Council continues to trailblaze basic research breakthroughs like the discovery of lake biomarkers, marine sediments as potential sources of antibiotics, increasing farm productivity, resilient music of the indigenous people, bioremediation protocols in rehabilitating mined-out areas, and risk factors of disaster-associated teenage pregnancy.

Researchers involved in this survey came from various SUCs in the region—including Cotabato City State Polytechnic College, Hardam Furigay Colleges Foundation, Mindanao Autonomous College Foundation Incorporated (MACFI), Mahardika Institute of Technology Inc., various branches of the Mindanao State University (MSU): MSU Maguindanao, MSU Marawi, MSU Sulu, MSU Tawi-Tawi College of Technology and Oceanography, Notre Dame of Jolo, Sulu State College,  and Upi Agricultural School - Provincial Technical Institute of Agriculture.

Challenged to access to quality water supply, researchers call for the conservation of Lake Lanao, one of the 17 ancient lakes in the world.

NRCP Research on Lake Lanao: A water resource

Lake Lanao conservation is crucial to the protection of the Maranao identity—in improving the living conditions and the environment of the communities, especially when it comes to access to safe water.

The estimated 10-million-year-old Lake is ultra-oligotrophic, which implies that the water quality is pristine and clean, an NRCP study finds.

The NRCP-funded program titled Lake Lanao for Sustainable Development was conducted by a team composed of NRCP expert members from MSU led by MSU-IIT Chancellor, Dr. Sukarno Tanggol. The team is currently collaborating with the local and provincial government, including non-government organizations (NGOs) to create and implement stricter policies and ordinances that will protect the lake like proper waste disposal, regulation of business establishments, monitoring on wastewater treatment, and sewerage system.

Based on the findings, the team recommended the establishment of Lake Lanao Development Authority that “shall make and implement a comprehensive development plan designed to promote the rapid social and economic development of this lake as well as its protection and conservation.” It likewise encourages the Department of Education to include topics on conservation of natural resources such as lakes, forests, and rivers in its curriculum. Dr. Fema Abamo, one of the project leaders from MSU-Marawi, says that this will enrich awareness, values, and stewardship of natural resources among young learners.

Aside from water security, the top research priorities of NRCP NIBRA are sustainable community, food and nutrition security, clean energy, inclusive nation-building, and healthy sufficiency.