Balik Scientists boost S&T efforts in the countryside

The engagement of Balik Scientists in the regions and their permanent repatriation in the country has advanced the level of scientific endeavors in the countryside, according to the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).

DOST – Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development (DOST-PCIEERD) Executive Director Dr. Enrico Paringit highlighted how Balik Scientists are instrumental in addressing various challenges and promoting innovation and research.

“(The Balik Scientist Program) ensures that there is a steady stream of knowledge that will also make impacts to the lives of people especially in those areas that are most needing of answers, needing of solutions, and most needing of opportunities whether it’s economic, social or otherwise,” Paringit said in an interview.

Dr. Paringit was recently here in Iloilo City for the exit conference of Dr. Noel Peter Tan, a Balik Scientist based in University of San Agustin (USA) whose expertise lies in nanoscience and nanotechnology.

Paringit also mentioned that Balik Scientists under DOST-PCIEERD are working on sectors to include food safety, countryside development, competitive industries, intelligent transport system, renewable energy, storage systems, security, and disaster risk reduction.

Meanwhile, Dr. Tan’s tenure at USA since 2022 led to the development of a plant-based, biodegradable packaging from waste materials.

Dr. Tan spearheaded a research on Nano-enabled bioplastics from regenerated cellulose aimed at producing an alternative source of biodegradable bioplastic with an improved mechanical property suitable for packaging materials.

He also developed a Membrane Technology for Seawater Desalination Program on improving a passive membrane-distillation system powered by solar energy. The preliminary data generated in this proposal will have significant impact towards the development of a functional prototype of desalinator for community-based application in the future, particularly providing sufficient water access.

Currently, Dr. Tan heads the Center for Advanced New Materials, Engineering, and Emerging Technologies (CANMEET) at USA which is the first material science and emerging technologies research center in the region.

To note, the Balik Scientist Program is a government initiative aimed to encourage Filipino scientists, researchers, and experts who are working abroad to return to the Philippines and contribute to the country’s scientific and technological development.

It offers incentives and support to returning scientists such as funding for research projects, support for relocation, and assistance in establishing partnerships with local institutions.

DOST-6 regional director Rowen Gelonga, for his part, said that DOST 6 offers a helping hand in nurturing partnership between Balik Scientists and the industries in Western Visayas.

“We are trying to really link the Balik Scientist to the different universities as well as  industries in the region so that we can be assured that the outputs and the engagements of the scientists go down to the benefit of the region,” Gelonga conveyed.

Gelonga, who also serves as the chairperson of the Regional Research Development and Innovation Committee under the Regional Development Council (RDC) 6, bares plans to introduce Western Visayas-based Balik Scientists to RDC and inform them of the specializations and engagements they are having to identify opportunities for collaboration. (AAL/LMLE/PIA Iloilo)