The Philippine Robotics National team has proven that the COVID-19 pandemic and the series of typhoons that hit the country in the past weeks has not deterred them from giving glory and honor to the country. World Robot Olympiad (WRO) Canada 2020-X has made innovations in delivering the event to over 750 participants from over 40 countries.
WRO Canada 2020-X conducted the event fully online using digital floor plans, livestreaming of activities, virtual meetings, social media platforms, and real-time digital scoreboard. The theme this year was titled “Climate Change/ Climate Squad” that was held on November 12-15, 2020.
The awardees composed of our Filipino young scientists are as follows: 1st place GOLD – Dr. Yanga’s Colleges Inc. DYCI NOVUS Team in the Open Category for Senior High School. The entry is PROJECT FEET, a 3-part project: Plastic Recycling, Power Generation and Provision of Footwear. The Project Feet robot manufactures footwear from plastic trash and imbed with piezo discs that generate power for mobile phones and other gadgets. The all-girl team won the “GIRL POWER AWARD” conferred during the 19th Philippine Robotics Olympiad. The members of the team are Naiah Nicole Mendoza, Denise Carpio, and Abigail Silva with their coach, Beryl Cruz.
2nd place SILVER – Dr. Yanga’s Colleges Inc. DYCI Primes Team in the Open Category for Junior High School. The entry is PROJECT CYCLE. A bicycle that can Convert Trash paper mixed with water lilies to make recycled paper. Rice Husk called “ipa” was used to make recycled pencils. Also, the Project Cycle bike was used to generate power for mobile phones and other gadgets. The members of the team are Annette Nicole Ambi, Aaron James Amar, and Daniella Angela de Guzman with their coach, Anne Jazpher Raz.
3rd place BRONZE –Candijay Municipal High School under the Department of Education, Division of Bohol in the Open Category for Junior High School. The entry is called BASAK that stands for Bohol Action to Solidify Agrikultura. It is composed of wind turbines, water pump and biomass generators with many applications for the agriculture industry in Bohol. The members of the team are Mary Haidee Makinano, Trisha Belle Olaivar, and Juno Ceasar Escatron with their coach, Thata Celeres.
Mylene Abiva of FELTA Multi-Media Inc. and National Organizer of the Philippine Robotics Olympiad and World Robot Olympiad Ambassador (representing 72 countries) said, “The biggest challenge was to synchronize everything as the countries were from different time zones. WRO Canada 2020-X set pre-scheduled calls and connected the participants resulting in the same excitement and success as a physical event. The Philippine Robotics National Team has overcome adversity of slow internet access, remote meetings, school closure, series of typhoons and o line presentations to the WRO Canada judges”.
Incidentally, FELTA, a pioneer and leader in the introduction of instructional materials such as electronic devices and audiovisual materials for Philippine schools, is one of the institutional partners of the Science and Technology Information Institute of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST-STII) and has long been collaborating with the DOST-Science Education Institute in various learning programs that promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics or STEM education in the country.
Mabuhay ang Pilipinas!
Sweet but not pure: DOST study shows 80% of honey sold
in markets contain sugar syrup
By David Matthew C. Gopilan, DOST-STII
Researchers from the Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (DOST-PNRI) found that about 80% of honey products sold in groceries, souvenir shops, and online platforms were not pure honey.
This was revealed using the nuclear-based tests showing honey products contain syrups made from sugar cane and corn. This fraudulent practice allows manufacturers to increase the volume of their products while reducing the production costs.
“62 out of the 76 (82%) of honey brands that were found to be adulterated were composed of 95% C4 sugar syrup. So, they are not actually adulterated but they are just completely purely sugar syrup,” said DOST-PNRI Dr. Angel T. Bautista VII.
Dr. Bautista explained the extent of impure honey proliferated the Philippine market. According to him, 12 out of 16 or 75% of local honey brands sold either in groceries or souvenir shops are not entirely honey. In addition, a staggering 87% or 64 out of 74 of local honey products sold online are impure. Lastly, from 41 imported honey products marketed in local stores, none of them were found to be adulterated.
“The problem is that people are being tricked,” Dr. Bautista remarked. “You may be buying honey for its wonderful health benefits, but because of adulteration, you may actually just be buying pure sugar syrup. Consuming too much pure sugar syrup can lead to harmful health effects,” he added.
Impure honey can seriously damage the local industry for it can pull down the price of honey. Fake honey can be sold as low as one-third of the original price of the authentic honey.
“Imagine, incomes that are supposed to be for our honest beekeepers and honey producers are being lost instead due to adulteration and fraud. This is affecting our local honey industry so badly that we estimate that they are losing PhP 200 million per year,” Dr. Bautista lamented.
According to the Philippine National Standard for Honey of the Bureau of Agriculture and Fisheries Standards, honey sold in the market must not have any food additives and other substances. If so, any substance added to the mixture must be declared in the labeling. Moreover, the geographical location where the honey was sourced should be written in labels.
Nuclear science fights food fraud
Honey is one of the most common food items being replicated all over the world. While its demand can make honey farming a promising business, it also became a subject of fraudulent production.
The DOST-PNRI researchers came up with these surprising, sobering findings through the stable carbon isotope ratio analysis.
This type of analysis allows researchers to see isotopes – elements with same number of electrons and protons but different number of neutrons – which can give clues on the origin of the substance. If honey is authentic, its protein content will show carbon isotopes that match those of flowering plants and bees. However, adulterated honey will have carbon isotopes which can be traced from sugarcane and corn.
“The carbon-13 signature is like a fingerprint of honey and common adulterants like sugarcane and corn are completely different from each other. Therefore, we can differentiate one from the other. This unique isotopic signature is what we are using to tell if honey is authentic or fake,” Dr. Bautista explained.
The carbon-13 he refers to is the stable isotope of carbon. The carbon-13 in a substance like honey can be used to trace the biological processes it went through.
To make honey, the bees start with sipping nectar from flowers using their straw-like tongue called proboscis. The enzymes in their gut will then process the nectar. Once done, they will vomit it and pass on to other bees of their colony. This process called regurgitation turns complex sugars of nectar into simple sugars. Next, they will store the regurgitated nectar in their hive and reduce its water content by flapping their wings. To cap it off, they will cover it with beeswax to complete the honey-making process.
These processes have fingerprints of carbon isotopes which are important for checking the authenticity of honey.
Dr. Bautista and his team has already forwarded their findings to the Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration.
“If we just release the names of the companies, they may stop for a while. But no one can stop them from faking honey again in the future. If we incorporate these isotope-based standards into our regulatory system and the Philippine National Standards, then we think it will be long-lasting solution to this problem,” Dr. Bautista reported.
They also call for stricter policies, regulation, and control measures to protect the honey industry and buyers.
Dr. Bautista leads a laboratory which studies application of nuclear and isotope techniques in the environment, geology, and food authentication. Joining him in this study are Marco R. Lao and Norman DS. Mendoza, also from DOST-PNRI, and Dr. Cleofas F. Cervancia, a retired professor at the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) who previously led its Bee Program. They presented their DOST-funded study in the Philippine Nuclear Research and Development Conference, which was held online during the Atomic Energy Week of DOST-PNRI on 09 December 2020.
“Si Plantito, Plantita sa Pandemya”: LBSCFI SyenSaya TechnoForum on food security
By: Krizzia Mei C. Esperanza
The Los Baños Science Community Foundation, Inc. (LBSCFI) Technology Forum (TechnoForum) Committee, chaired by Dr. Alexander R. Madrigal, the Regional Director of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) CALABARZON, organized a virtual forum via Zoom and Facebook Live on December 3, 2020.
The TechnoForum titled “Si Plantito, Plantita sa Pandemya: Food Security Challenges and Opportunities Under the New Normal” is part of the 12th Los Baños SyenSaya Science Festival. Around 200 individuals, coming from different parts of the country, attended the event.
Dr. Melinda dP. Bandalaria, the Chancellor of the University of the Philippines Open University (UPOU) and the President of the LBSCFI, highlighted the virtual or online character of this year’s TechnoForum during her welcome address.
She said, “While we will be missing the usual physical or face-to-face gathering that characterizes our TechnoForum participation during the previous years, this virtual TechnoForum was designed to achieve the same set of objectives—to provide information, models of good practices, on the application of science-based products and services to our daily lives, and to stimulate discourse concerning issues that are controversial to many.” She cited how food security is a relevant issue, given the instances of families not having enough to eat, or of farmers restricted to sell their produce under the “new normal.”
However, she continued that the forum is a celebration of resilience—”to move past these initial challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, and even surface opportunities that kept many of us going.”
Dr. Madrigal shared the active participation of the DOST-CALABARZON to the recently concluded National Science and Technology Week (NSTW) celebration, and presented the rationale behind the TechnoForum’s program of activities.
The forum covers the 4 thematic Ks of the 2020 NSTW: Kalusugan, Kabuhayan, Kaayusan, and Kinabukasan. Under Kalusugan, Dr. Eufemio V. Rasco, Jr., the Chair of the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST) Agricultural Sciences Division, was invited to talk about how food security involves not only adequacy, but accessibility to nutritious food.
Under Kabuhayan, the organizing committee invited Los Baños-based produce sellers, Carbonn Farms and Sierreza, to talk about how the pandemic both posed a threat to, and offered opportunities for, food security.
Under Kaayusan and Kinabukasan, Ms. Cheryll Laviña-Gonzales, the Municipal Agriculturist of Los Baños, and Hon. Filomena Cinco, the Barangay Chairperson of 412, Sampaloc, Manila, were invited to share local government and community projects on food security, and how these has helped them cope with the pandemic
Dr. Eufemio V. Rasco, Jr., the Chair of the NAST Agricultural Sciences Division talks about “Food Security Challenges and Opportunities Under the New Normal,” December 3, 2020.
Dr. Rasco, during his talk, detailed how the challenges to food security—the 3 U’s: Unjust, Unsustainable, and Unhealthy food system—can be dealt with by these 3 Ds: Diversification in the dining table, Diversification in the farms, and use of Digital technology.
He shared some opportunities for both food producers and consumers amidst the many food security challenges. For consumers, he recommended the integration of the “prosumer” lifestyle, encouraging households to plant and grow their own food resource.
Towards the end of his talk, he challenged agencies and organizations, the DOST and the Department of Education (DepEd) in particular, to be more active in responding to food security.
For the DOST, he suggested the development and distribution of production technologies, and provision of science-based guidance related to food security to the general public.
For the DepEd, he advised the integration of learning materials on healthy diet and food production to classes. Ms. Gonzales shared the initiatives of the Municipal Government of Los Baños in addressing food security issues. Some of these are the distribution of seeds, seedlings, and fertilizers, provision of agricultural and livestock extension, provision of farming equipment, and establishment of markets, testing laboratories, and a bakery (catering to malnourished children).
Hon. Cinco, on the other hand, narrated the story behind her organizations’ involvement with the DOST National Capital Region (NCR) and the DOST Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resource Research and Development (PCAARRD), through the Gulayan sa Pamayanan project.
The Nagkakaisang Mamamayan ng Legarda, Inc. (NML) and Jesse M. Robredo Homeowners Association, Inc. (JMRV HOA), which Hon. Cinco represents, are organizations advocating for housing plans for the poor. Through their efforts, they were able to house families in Estero de San Miguel in Sampaloc, Manila. These same families became beneficiaries of the Gulayan sa Pamayanan project, which supports the establishment of urban gardens.
Dr. Madonna C. Casimero, representing Carbonn Farms and Solita’s Farm Diner, shares “Finding Opportunities Amidst the Food Security Challenges,” December 3, 2020. Dr. Madonna C. Casimero introduced the “farm to plate concept” she integrated in Carbonn Farms and its sister establishment, Solita’s Farm Diner.
The pandemic, among other challenges, made it difficult to sustain the business, but Dr. Casimero stressed, “We really have to have that grit, perseverance, and patience to survive.” The key strategies Carbonn Farms (and Solita’s Farm Diner) implemented to cope with the pandemic are to scale down operations, and to innovate products and schemes.
Because of the challenges, Dr. Casimero discovered opportunities for her business to grow, such as marketing and selling through online platforms, and partnering with food delivery services.
Another produce seller, Sierreza, represented by Mr. Cris Pullan, Mr. Graham Tapia, and Mr. Jobert Peñaranda, shared their experiences on how the pandemic changed the business landscape for them. Sierreza markets and sells produce of indigenous farmers in Sierra Madre.
Along with the pandemic is an opportunity for them to establish mobile markets, aside from online selling, to continue their operations, taking inspiration from Pasig City’s “Mobile Palengke.” This proved to be successful, generating more income for the farmers. Sierreza is unique as it advocates for “community-supported agriculture,” which builds, not just a consistent and loyal customer base, but a community of producers and consumers.
After the talks, the Open Forum offered an opportunity to expand on the topic of food security. One question asked was, “If I wish to become a prosumer, living in a small apartment in the city, where do I start?” Dr. Rasco answered that so long as there is sunlight in the space, or artificial light may be installed, taking on the prosumer lifestyle is not an issue.
Hon. Cinco added, “Hindi kawalan ang maliit na espasyo o lupa, maging innovative lang po tayo,” speaking from experience as an urban gardener.
Hon. Caesar Perez, the Municipal Mayor of Los Baños, closed the event, thanking the LBSCFI for organizing a forum on food security.
The municipality shares the same diligence in tackling food security issues. Some of its efforts, according to Hon. Perez, are the provision of a tractor, which use and operation are free, and the rent and land preparation of agricultural lots for farmers.
He promised the continuing dedication of the Municipal Government of Los Baños to be vigilant and responsive to food security issues. “Huwag tayong magsasawa na tumuklas para sa ikagagaling at hindi ikagugutom ng ating mga mamamayan,” he ended.
The TechnoForum received positive reviews from its participants. One participant wrote, “The showcase of the efforts of private sector and small enterprise is very good as it provided an avenue for groups such as cooperatives and small enterprise owners and the concerned local government agencies and NGAs for opportunities of collaboration and assistance.”
Another said, “Ang ganitong mga uri ng talakayan ay mainam at kapakipakinabang sa mga mamamayan lalu’t higit sa panahong kasalukuyan upang magkaroon ng mga kapaparaanan ang marami at muling makabangon sa kabuhayan pampamilya man o pangkomunidad sa kabila ng kinakaharap ng pandemya.
Isang pagbati sa mahusay na webinar. Mabuhay kayo at nawa’y ipagpatuloy ang inyong mahusay na adhikain.” Watch the replay of “Si Plantito, Plantita sa Pandemya: Food Security Challenges and Opportunities Under the New Normal” here: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=837670503698309
Visit the LBSCFI Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/lbscfi) to rewatch its 2020 Los Baños SyenSaya Science Festival virtual activities.