We may be seeing more students heading into the STEM fields soon
The world has been living under the threat of different infectious diseases that can wipe out humanity. Scientists have only discovered prevention in the form of a vaccine when they are able to identify and cultivate viruses—bearing witness to the need for research encompassing fundamental knowledge, the reemergence of diseases, the effectivity of a vaccine, and the insurgence of novel viruses, which is of main concern today.
Only economically rich countries, however, tend to have the means to conduct these research enterprises. The rest of us rely on national and international public health agencies such as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) for safety measures and immunization. In our case, President Rodrigo Duterte is looking to distribute a vaccine produced in Russia and China to put an end to the pandemic in the near future.
We never blame our forefathers, nor world-class Filipino scientists who gained expertise by studying abroad, for our lack of access to advanced scientific resources. Rather, it is systemic. Yes, we should take our cue not simply from piggybacking on the pandemic roadmap of different countries, but also from our local science industry, which needs public trust and government funding to yield effective epidemiological results.
The Department of Science and Technology’s (DOST) proposal of a new research institute may be our breakthrough toward this scientific mobility. According to the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) CEO, and also the deputy chief implementer of the National Action Plan Against Covid-19, Vince Dizon, the Virology Science and Technology Institute of
the Philippines (VIP) will be prioritizing research on infectious diseases and addressing the needs brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic such as science-backed assessments to guide decision-makers in flattening the curve. This will also help formalize scientific advice and estimate risk in the imposition of quarantine measures and travel restrictions.
Although it has been recently approved by the Economic Development Cluster as one of the infrastructure flagship projects (IFPs) under Build, Build, Build, the intervention has been proposed by DOST Sec. Fortunato dela Peña to study existing viral cases in the country even before the Covid-19 pandemic had surfaced. It will begin construction in 2021.
The department will consult experts from the medical field while Dizon’s emphasis is on fast-tracking the project’s development plan at New Clark City, which hosted the 30th Southeast Asian Games last year. The site is currently under construction to make way for the country’s greenest and most sustainable metropolis, but BCDA has been retrofitting industrial and road projects to convert facilities into isolation and medical centers since March.
“New Clark City is planned with responsiveness from the very beginning, that’s why it is very easy for us to build facilities there,” Dizon tells Manila Bulletin Lifestyle. “I think the research institute is a testament to the plan of making [New Clark] a resilient city. This vision is something that we need all over the country. It serves as a model for other cities to really invest in multi-use facilities that are capable of addressing any eventuality that may come our way.”
Dizon also believes that the project will not merely facilitate a factual basis in dealing with crises, especially that of protracted ones such as Covid-19, but will also strengthen provision for STEM education and produce more Filipino scientists.
“We didn’t invest enough in research and healthcare in the past. As they say, you never let a crisis go to waste, so now we need VIP to primarily look at research and allow us to develop a very effective response to these types of viruses and pandemics, in collaboration with other countries throughout the region,” he says. “I think this is a good step if we want to create a world-class research institute and bring in our very own experts and talents in the country to do more findings on infectious diseases. Overall, it was a smart investment on the part of the government because the pandemic won’t be ending anytime soon.”