Photo of Undersecretary Dr. Rowena Cristina L. Guevara of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) from DOST Media Group
By Victoria “NIKE” De Dios
The Department of Science and Technology has been at the forefront of the Philippine government when it comes to science and technology and innovation endeavors of the country.
Having said this, the Philippines is honored to have DOST Undersecretary Dr. Rowena Cristina L. Guevara representing the Philippines in the 2020-2021 Intersessional Panel Meeting of the United Nations Commission on Science and Technology for Development (CSTD) held virtually last January 18-22, 2021.
The five-day conference was the first meeting that the Philippines participated in as a member upon its re-election to the Commission on April 21, 2020 with the assumption of the post on January 01, 2021.
The meeting tackled issues related to the themes “using science, technology, and innovation (STI) to close the gap on SDG 3, on good health well-being” and “harnessing blockchain for sustainable development: prospects and challenges”. CSTD member countries and experts shared their best practices and lessons learned on the said topics.
Undersecretary Guevara made an intervention on January 19, 2021 and discussed the experiences of the Philippines in applying science, technology, and innovation (STI) in the health sector. She mentioned that the country has long recognized the importance of science and research in crafting evidence-informed health policies and actions. One of its clear manifestations is the establishment of the national health research framework through the Philippine National Health Research Systems Law.
The science department official also cited the various research and development programs of the DOST such as the “Tuklas Lunas” Program, Omic Technologies for Health Program, and COVID-19-related studies on the virgin coconut oil, Tawa-tawa plant, and Lagundi as adjunctive treatments. Various technologies were developed applied to respond to the pandemic like GenAmplify COVID-19 testing kits, RxBox telehealth device, FASSSTER app, use of QR codes, AI, data, and satellite technology were also featured.
“We may have heard of the saying, ‘We are facing the same storm but we are not in the same boat’.”, Undersecretary Guevara said. She ended her statement by calling on the governments, the United Nations, and all sectors of society to work together and ensure that STI opportunities would be provided equally and with fairness among the nations to be able to rise above the global crisis.
Other delegates from different regions also highlighted how innovations in science, research, and blockchain technology are helping their countries adapt to the current challenges the world is facing.
Professor Erika Kraemer-Mbula from South Africa underscored the consideration of cultural context and adapting traditional medicine and indigenous knowledge in medical innovative interventions in communities. On the other hand, Dr. Jerome Kim of the International Vaccine Institute emphasized the importance of ensuring that there are enough doses of vaccine around the world that is crucial to effectively overcome the pandemic. The vaccines must become a public good and the economic status of a country should not be a hindrance to accessing these resources.
In relation to blockchain, the panelists and delegates revealed the great potential that the technologies offer. The wide array of its applications stretches from South Africa’s massive use of blockchain technology through Bitcoin for e-commerce and savings, up to the digital certification through the technology’s smart contracts. Ethereum Foundation shared the three uses of blockchain in accounting, public services, and even in agricultural insurance for farmers in Kenya.
The DOST now looks forward to capitalizing on these learnings and how the Philippines can benefit from this collaboration. The Department is committed to support the programs and activities of the CSTD as representative of the country in the STI commission under the United Nations, with guidance from the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Philippine Mission to the United Nations and other International Organizations in Geneva, Switzerland.