Seek Practical Solutions for the COVID-19 Pandemic
On September 26, the 1st Voice of Press (V.O.P) Asian Media Forum was held online to discuss the ways to resolve the COVID-19 pandemic more practically and peacefully.
This forum was hosted by Heavenly Culture, World Peace, Restoration of Light (HWPL), an international peace NGO registered in the UN ECOSOC and UN DGC. 32 people, including 16 journalists from Hong Kong, Indonesia, Nepal, the Philippines, and Taiwan participated in this forum.
The HWPL media peace forum “V.O.P (Voice of Press)” is a place of communication and national media network where journalists from all over the world can voluntarily participate and speak out for freedom of media and peace journalism by establishing a global media network.
It has been held 33 times since November 2016, attended by 176 journalists from 22 countries including Austria, Bangladesh, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Namibia, Nepal, Nigeria, the Philippines, Russia, Sweden, and Ukraine. However, it is the first time for the six Asian countries to hold a joint forum.
Piya Ratna Maharjan, President of Track Nepal, said, “One of the biggest problems around the world during this pandemic would be the psychological problem – joblessness, mental health, etc. In this case, we can work together by doing a peace campaign in practical ways through online platforms of HWPL. Through these, civil society at the community level can learn and work together in order to resolve the pandemic situation.”
Ted Chan, a social scientist, said, “Media, therefore, became an ‘educator’ implanting fear, emotional blackmailing to the public by writing fake yet juicy stories. Reporting biased news does harm to society. The way to peace is the truth.”
Michael Balaguer, Proprietor and Website Administrator of Diaryong Tagalog Network., stated that members of the press have “to be patriotic and deliver truthful, fair and, balanced information not just in the advent of this pandemic but at all times”. He is also encouraging local experts to use their technology for the greater good of the citizens.
In the end, Alice Kim, Director of International Public Relations Department in Seoul Southern Branch of HWPL, mentioned that the COVID-19 Pandemic issue has made the whole world more united in some way. “We will actively reflect the peaceful and practical voices of every journalist and strive to work for peace. The Public Relations Department of HWPL will create more meaningful seats for journalists around the world to speak out for peace,” she added.
DOST forum clears up issues on Manila Bay rehab
The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) forum on “Our Collective Vision for Manila Bay: From Cleaning to Healing Across Ecosystems” served as a venue to clarify issues involving the Manila Bay rehabilitation where over a thousand viewers from the academe, government, and civic organizations were able to listen to the experts’ discussion on the legal, environmental, social, and even psychological issues.
The situation in Manila Bay is rather complicated because it is situated in one of the most urban cities in the country where roughly 1.47 million live in poverty. Consequently, the discarded solid wastes that are not properly managed, presence of open dump sites, and low diversion rate somehow contributes to the problem in the bay.
This present condition may lead to other adjunct problems that can include exposure to constant flooding; decreasing area as natural habitat, human settlements are in hazardous areas; and it’s not meeting the SB guidelines – meaning it is not suitable for propagation of shellfish or milkfish, eco-tourism, and other recreational activities.
“Our main concern is the rehabilitation of the Manila Bay, and in rehabilitation, we need to address the garbage problem and the water quality,” said Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Undersecretary Jonas Leones.
Under Administrative Order No. 16 issued in 2019, “Expediting the Rehabilitation and Restoration of the Coastal and Marine Ecosystem of the Manila Bay and Creating the Manila Bay Task Force,” the DENR and other concerned government entities are mandated to fast track the Manila Bay’s rehabilitation.
However, even before the creation of the Task Force for the Manila Bay Rehabilitation Program, there was already the Manila Bay Sustainable Development Master Plan (MBSDMP) drafted in 2018, which became the basis for much of the activities of the ongoing rehabilitation program that covers three regions: NCR, Region 3 and Region 4, and 187 LGUs.
The recent Beach Nourishment initiative of the DENR is just one of the five geo-reengineering components of the said program. The other four are trashbooms (structures designed to catch and hold trash materials like debris, branches, leaves), silt curtains, dredging and desilting, and sewerage treatment plants.
Usec. Leones further explained that beach nourishment is a coastal restoration and enhancement activity covering a particular area done to maintain the beach area nourished. The area that has been the subject of discussion recently, because of dolomite, comprises only up to 120 meters.
“We have not done anything yet, nor changed the configuration of the area. We merely removed the filth and dirt, and made it safe and beautiful for the public,” Leones explained.
The beach nourishment program merely relied on the beach nourishment models from other countries and limited the study under the existing conditions of the Manila Bay. There was no long-term impact assessment done.
“If the current trend in the relative sea level continues, which is actually rising quite fast, then in the long run it would definitely affect the beach nourishment,” Karl Queaño, an assistant professor from Ateneo de Manila University and member of NRCP, pointed out.
Queaño also emphasized that in any development, there is an attendant impact. The important question is that – what is the acceptable level of risk for everyone?
Given the many issues arising from the discussion, Leones informed the audience that the DENR policy is dynamic, and that they welcome comments from the other sectors to improve the policy.
“Since beach nourishment has been an issue, perhaps in our policy change we can consider the beach nourishment to be one of the activities to have a full-blown TIA,” Leones assured the viewers. TIA refers to total impact assessment.
At the end, the webinar-forum made more people understand the Manila Bay Rehabilitation Program of the government, helped clarify some issues, and consider possible courses of action that can be taken for an effective and sustainable rehabilitation and preservation of Manila Bay.
The virtual event was a collaborative activity of the DOST-National Research Council of the Philippines, Geological Society of the Philippines (GSP), and the University of the Philippines Los Baños School of Environmental Science and Management (SESAM). (S&T Media Service, Geraldine Bulaon-Ducusin)
Gov’t, private sector need to mold
S&T workforce together – DOST-SEI, PIDS study
Just as the COVID-19 pandemic prompted a renewed appreciation for Filipino science and technology (S&T) workers, the Department of Science and Technology – Science Education Institute (DOST-SEI) recently released a collaborative study with state think-tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) to give an outlook of future S&T labor requirements in the country.
Entitled “The Future S&T Human Resource Requirements in the Philippines: A Labor Market Analysis,” the study sought to provide a foundation for policy and strategy development concerning the country’s S&T human resources development (STHRD) efforts, which has huge influence on economic growth and resiliency.
The study utilized available data from population censuses, labor force surveys, and other data sources—mainly from the Philippine Statistics Authority’s (PSA) Labor Force Survey (LFS) from 2010 to 2018—to portray current trends in the supply and demand of S&T human resources in the country.
Overall, findings suggest that while the total S&T workforce forms only a small portion (5%) of the country’s total labor force, and that the diverse S&T occupations differ in growth potential in terms of employment, there is the need for both government and private sector to support the promotion of most S&T disciplines given that new jobs emerge from new technologies and industries.
The findings provide valuable policy recommendations on the the administration of DOST scholarship programs. For instance, DOST and private sector could incentivize young students for pursuing science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), not just in senior high school or college but even as early as junior high. The study furthered that financial assistance, while helpful, may not be enough to fill the pool of S&T human resources required in the future. Government and the industry should be in close coordination to ensure the matching of capabilities of S&T professionals with the demands of the labor market.
The study looked into the current state of the country’s S&T workforce, the specific S&T fields that are critical to future job requirements, as well as the projection of level of demand for specific disciplines. Below are some interesting findings of the joint paper:
• The S&T workforce constitutes only a small portion (5%) of the total workforce. The highest among the S&T fields is Engineering (2.8%), followed by Computing/Information Technology (1.9%). The other three major fields, namely, Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, and Math and Statistics are lower than 1%. (Note: Following U.S. classifications, medical and health occupations are excluded from S&T occupations.)
• The future demand will be highest for workers in the field of Engineering. The demand projections reveal that the labor market will still favor the Engineers, at least within the Philippines. (Note: The demand projection focuses solely on domestic demand and does not consider international demand for workers with S&T background.)
• The supply projection reveals significant increase in the number of S&T workers with Computer Science and IT background. Gap estimates, however, predicts a domestic oversupply for these professionals, which is reminiscent with the 1990s ‘Nursing boom.’
• Both supply and demand of S&T workers will further grow in the future. Notably, the future appears most favorable for Engineers as these workers will comprise majority of the country’s future demand.
• The domestic economy will also demand more S&T workers in the fields of Life Science, Physical Sciences, as well as Math and Statistics.
• The top 10 S&T occupations with the highest projected employment growth in 2020-2025 are the ff.: 1) Systems administrators; 2) Systems Analysts; 3) Industrial Engineers; 4) Web and Multimedia Developers; 5) Applications Programmers; 6) Civil Engineers; 7) Database Designers and Administrators; 8) Electrical Engineers; 9) Building Architects; and 10) Computer Network Programmers.
• Though the number of statisticians shows a declining trend, the demand for statisticians remains high due to the explosion of data analytics.
• There are also identified specific S&T occupations with negative projected employment growth in 2020-2025, namely: Town and traffic planners; Chemical Engineers; Mathematician and Actuaries; Chemists; Electronics Engineers; Farming, Forestry and Fisheries Advisers; Mining Engineers, Metallurgists and related professionals; and, Biologist, Botanist, Zoologist and related scientists.
“The continuous struggle to promote STEM among the students to increase not just enrollment to related courses but also to boost overall interest in science among the general public shows you that the government’s stance is on the right track, but there truly has to be enhanced collaboration with all stakeholders for us to better prepare for the changes in technology and the economy,” said Dr. Josette Biyo, Director of DOST-SEI.
Aside from close coordination between the government and the private sectors in implementing programs and developing strategies, much of the work remains on building a sound S&T culture. The study affirms that there is a need to encourage the young population to go into STEM fields; however, the government needs some re-strategizing.
For one, the government’s STEM promotion programs need to adjust to the changing times by utilizing “new media” as opposed to relying on formal channels and traditional media. Aggressive media campaigns through social media platforms, could be used to generate ‘hype’ and educate both children and parents on the role and importance of STEM workforce in the society.
The study also incites a thorough review on DOST Scholarship administration. It highlights that the timing of scholarships is crucial. The paper recommends that financial support should be concentrated at the onset of the tertiary level or in junior high school as it is then when students’ inclination to STEM is developed.
Other recommendations include taking steps to increase enrollment and graduates of STEM while ensuring quality and reducing drop-out and failure rates across all levels of STEM education. To this, Biyo said DOST-SEI is already taking steps.
“In implementing our programs, we carefully analyze what kind of gaps we’re trying to fill whether in terms of STEM promotion or teacher training. The key for us, as ascertained by this study, is to adapt to the needs of this era for us to build an environment that is inviting for our young minds,” remarked Biyo.