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Bioremediation to detoxify wastewater in mine tailings was the key topic of the Luzon Policy Forum by the Department of Science and Technology-National Research Council of the Philippines (DOST-NRCP) held virtually on April 30, 2021, 9:00 – 11:00 AM.

The theme is based on the results of the NRCP-funded research project, Microbial-Based Technologies for the Rehabilitation of Heavy Metal Contaminated Wastewater from Mining Site (Itogon, Benguet), which recommended the use of the developed bioremediation process that turns heavy metal contaminants in mine tailings into harmless water and gases at the project site.

Bioremediation is a process that uses microorganisms, plants, or microbial or plant enzymes to detoxify contaminants in the soil and other environments (S.Gouma, S.Fragoeiro, et. Al, 2014).

The key stakeholders, advocates, and the public gathered virtually to provide innovative ideas and opinions that may be useful in improving the policy recommendations generated from the research, or suggestions for future research such as new methods and approaches to absorb the pollutants and/or for stricter monitoring of abandoned mined sites and the operations of small-scale mining.

Another must-see is the pre-recorded interviews of the Itogon people (youth, heads of household, community leaders, mayor, health and environment officers) where they speak about their experiences as a community residing in the areas affected by mine tailings.

The policy forum aimed to impart to the youth, including high school students and/or college students, the methods, findings and experiences related to the research. It also intended to provide the community members and heads of households the simple and helpful research-based methods to counter the risks of consuming heavy metal-contaminated water. Aside from these, this policy forum served as avenue for an open dialogue with local elected officials towards the implementation of existing public policies on wastewater treatment. Moreover, the goal of the forum was to engage the lawmakers and decision-makers in a dialogue where researchers shared the science perspectives of public policy and discuss ways to build a collaborative approach to policymaking.

Engr. Joven R. Barcelo, NRCP Associate Member of the Division of Engineering and Industrial Research, and a staff of DOST-Industrial Technology Development Institute presented the research results on behalf of the project leader, Dr. Carmel A. Gacho.

In attendance were the elected officials and prime movers of Benguet Province: Hon. Governor Melchor D. Diclas, Hon. Mayor Victorio T. Palangdan; and NRCP Experts from CAR: Geologist Dymphna Nolasco-Javier and Environmental Engineer Marcelino N. Lunag, as well as DOST-CAR Regional Director Nancy Bantog.  DOST Secretary Fortunato T. de la Pena delivered a message centered on challenge of policymaking.

 

STRENGTHENING THE TIES

Capping the event was the virtual signing of a Memorandum of Commitment (MOC) between NRCP represented by its President, Dr. Gregorio E.H. del Pilar, and the LGU of Itogon, Benguet represent by its Mayor Victorio T. Palangdan. The MOC signing was witnessed by NRCP Executive Director Dr. Marieta Banez Sumagaysay and LGU Municipal Administrator Atty. Noel Ngolob.

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Executive Director Marieta Banez Sumagaysay (top left) presides and witnesses the ceremonial signing of the Memorandum of Commitment (MOC) on April 30, 2021, between the Local Government of Itogon and the National Research Council of the Philippines represented by Mayor Victorio T. Palangdan (top row, second to the left) and President Gregorio E.H. del Pilar (on screen, center), respectively.

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Mayor Victorio T. Palangdan (on screen, center), expresses his thanks and appreciation to the National Research Council of the Philippines while signing the Memorandum of Commitment.

The MOC includes: (a) close communication between NRCP and LGU-Itogon to be able to implement appropriate and necessary forums, seminars, workshops, training and/or outreach programs to enhance the knowledge, attitude, and behavior towards occurring and recurring problems of LGU Officials and Constituents, across sectors; (b) NRCP to provide experts to conduct requested activity of LGU-Itogon; (c) LGU-Itogon to assess, select, and send participants, speakers, and reactors to requested activity; (d) collaboration in order to efficiently and effectively implement activities that may contribute in the enhancement of Knowledge, attitude, and behavior of LGU Constituents towards occurring and recurring issues; and (e) work together as a team to come up with science and data-based policies.

This forum was anchored on the framework – The Spectra of Dissemination of Research-based Information, and targets the distribution of research-based evidence and intervention information to a wide range of audience through variety of channels, social context, and setting.

NRCP holds policy forums annually in various regions of the three major islands of the country – Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao, specifically to share research-based information and recommendations to its intended public: youth (students and budding researchers), community members (heads of households), LGU (elected officials), other government agencies and or departments (those related to the issues), and lawmakers (representatives and senators). This activity falls under the BRITER project of NRCP, particularly the component on Basic Research-Informed Policymaking (BRIP).