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The MSU-IIT Team discussing project details and methodology
 

Researchers from the Mindanao State University - Iligan Institute of Technology (MSU-IIT) has recently uncovered valuable rare earth elements (REEs) from coal fly ash (CFA), a waste material generated by coal power plants.

According to Project Leader Dr. Vannie Joy Resabal, these REEs are “widely used in high-technology, clean energy and emerging technology applications, and are amongst the critical raw materials classified by the European Commission and the US Department of Energy.” Through the funding and support from the Department of Science and Technology - Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development (DOST-PCIEERD), the researchers were able to successfully extract REEs from the CFAs they analyzed.

REEs are vital components of most electronic products like cellular phones, computer hard drives, televisions, and even electric vehicles. Even though REEs form only a small fraction of these products, without rare earths, these products cannot function.

DOST-PCIEERD Deputy Executive Director and Officer-in-Charge Engr. Raul C. Sabularse expressed optimism over the potential gains that the country can obtain from the discovery of these REEs.

“The economic gains that our countrymen can achieve once these REEs are maximized to its full potential is truly promising and we hope that local businessmen can look into this potential resource,” he said.

Resabal said there are no known sources nor studies on REEs and their research shows that these valuable metals can finally be found in the Philippines.

Resabal also mentioned similar studies from Poland, United Kingdom, and Japan showed that CFAs can be a valuable secondary source of REEs.

“Raw and unprocessed coal already contains a variety of metals, and at times, also REEs, burning it enriches these metals,” she said.

The country houses more than 25 coal power plants that produce significant amounts of CFA, and these CFAs are currently only used as source of geopolymer materials and as cement additive. 

Resabal’s team extracted REEs through hydrometallurgical processing, which comprises of the leaching and separation-purification stage.

“In leaching, valuable metals (REEs) from minerals or waste materials are dissolved using acids or alkaline solutions. The dissolved metals in solution are then recovered through a process called separation-purification, wherein unwanted impurities (which dissolve together with REEs) are discarded,” recounted Resabal.

The study resulted into confirming that the REE content of their sample CFA was within the outlook coefficient value for potential economic development. Resabal proudly shared that their experiments using different acids were able to achieve an average of 50% REE recovery.

For the project team, this offers “a new area of research and development that is attractive, significant, and multidisciplinary as it covers recycling, extractive metallurgy, waste management, chemistry, materials science, and environmental remediation.”

She clarified that the parameters chosen for the study were based on “the attainable parameters of whatever available equipment at the Metallurgical Laboratory of MSU-IIT. This means that even with mild conditions and simple experimental set up, we were able to extract about 50% of REEs from CFA.”

Resabal’s team are now working on a full-blown research proposal for the next phase of the project to further explore the extraction parameters in improving the recovery of REEs.

“We will be investigating as well methods to separate and then purify the solutions containing REEs. We are also looking at generating REE precipitates as an intermediate product prior to refining. Another stream of the CFA project is to study the potential of using the residue (remaining solids after dissolving the REEs) for environmental applications, such as removal of heavy metals from wastewater,” Resabal added.
 
 

In an effort to enable Local Government Units (LGUs) to deliver more efficient and accessible services to their respective communities, the Department of Science and Technology - Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development (DOST-PCIEERD) awarded six municipal e-governance systems to the municipalities of Nabua and Bula in the hope to serve as a model for smart governance for local government offices.

DOST-PCIEERD turned over six (6) interrelated systems that shall work as a cluster of interdependent modules in the following areas:

  • Legislative Management and Tracking System is an application that tracks the status, manages, and stores all communications, requests, proposed resolutions and ordinances, Sanggguniang Bayan resolutions, and ordinances.
  • The e-Building Permit System is a 24/7 service that systemizes the building permit process by allowing citizens to easily track the progress of permit requests, schedule inspections, attach electronic plans and requirements, receive corrections, leave messages, and self-print certifications.
  • The Real Property Assessment and Tax Management System is an application that automates real property transactions and provide onscreen public viewings of delinquent real properties for auction and the online printing of Declaration of Real Property Value (DRPV).
  • The e-Business Permit and Licensing System allows for the computerization of the permit application process, assessment of taxes and fees, billing, and liquidation of collections.
  • Financial accounting uses the Point of Payment System (PoPS) which acts as the central unit that accepts and manages payment transactions from fees, taxes, and charges being collected by LGUs.
  • The Local ID System aims to enhance the portfolio of citizen-centric services.

 

All of these systems were developed by the Camarines Sur Polytechnic Colleges.

With the passage of the Ease of Doing Business Act, which seeks to provide simpler requirements and easier procedures for government transactions, innovations in government service tends to be more LGU-centric to promote transparency, accountability, and effectiveness in their services.

DOST-PCIEERD Executive Director Dr. Enrico C. Paringit expressed optimism on the prospects of having the system replicated to other LGUs in the country.

“We hope that other LGUs can look at the innovations that the Nabua municipal office has incorporated and see it as a model in improving their own services and processes,” he said.

Paringit said DOST-PCIEERD initiated transformation of local government services into a one-stop web portal solution by automating level operations across departments and sub-offices in consonance with the Smart City program of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) – starting off with the municipalities of Nabua and Bula in Camarines Sur.

He said this e-governance initiative provides automated management, administration, and analytic systems for LGUs to encourage citizen participation and bring in added opportunities through open source technologies.

Paringit also urged policy makers to provide funding in LGUs to cover human resource and equipment and integrate an e-governance funding scheme into the municipalities’ annual budget plan.

“Sustaining the innovations we have started entails bankrolling these initiatives that will make sure that they are optimized to its full potential,” he said.

LGU-based solutions are important in developing smart cities as it provides a better foundation and innovation on government services and transactions that they offer to their constituents.

DOST-PCIEERD will be celebrating its 9th anniversary in June with the theme “Smart Governance: Role of Science, Technology, and Innovation,” which highlights the different technologies that the Innovation Council has funded on smart governance.
 

Harnessing the power of the satellite images, researchers from the University of the Philippines Diliman have created an online community-based assessment tool to assess the presence of blue carbon in coastal areas.

The Integrated Assessment and Modelling of Blue Carbon Ecosystems for Conservation and Adaptive Management (IAMBlueCECAM) program, led by Dr. Ariel C. Blanco and with funding support from the Department of Science and Technology - Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development (DOST-PCIEERD),  produced an accurate and detailed inventory of mangrove forests and seagrass habitats in selected pilot sites using remotely-sensed data and ground-based measurements as one of its major outputs. In addition to extent, blue carbon ecosystem zonation, species composition, and above-ground biomass were mapped using methodologies developed by the program.

The maps and other outputs, once used by local government units, can provide local officials information on the mangrove extent and species present in the area that they can use for its conservation and effective management. Study sites are Coron, Busuanga and Puerto Princesa in Palawan, Ibajay, Batan, and Kalibo in Aklan, and Banate Bay in Iloilo.

Blue carbon refers to the carbon captured and stored by the coastal ecosystems, specifically mangroves and seagrasses (also called carbon sinks), for million years. When these ecosystems are degraded, they release the captured carbon back to the atmosphere, greatly contributing to climate change. It is thus beneficial to everyone that our mangroves and seagrasses are conserved and protected.

“Local governments need to recognize the importance of these blue carbon ecosystems. Its non-use was valued at over P35 million per hectare in Puerto Princesa, Palawan--20 times higher than the use of its wood for fuel. We hope that this number alone can encourage our local communities and tourists to conserve these ecosystems given their value,” said Dr. Enrico Paringit, DOST-PCIEERD Executive Director.

The valuation of the non-use of the blue carbon ecosystems refer to the benefits received by the local community just through the presence of these ecosystems. Aside from serving as blue carbon sinks, mangroves serve as habitat for marine species and protect the communities from the damaging effects brought about by strong winds, hurricanes, and big waves; while the seagrass beds serve as nursery for fishes and stabilize sea bottom against intense waves.

Dr. Blanco calls on collective action to alleviate deterioration of these ecosystems, “these blue carbon ecosystems are heavily impacted by human activities, including coastal developments. The citizens can serve as monitors, sentinels, and scientists for the environment by gathering data, reporting their observations, and contributing knowledge towards crafting measures to arrest ecosystem degradation.”

Researchers have also developed a web tool that allows the public to contribute data on mangroves and seagrasses in the country. For now, interested communities can contact the UP Training Center for Applied Geodesy and Photogrammetry (UP-TCAGP) for collaboration or inquiries through 981-8500 local 3124. 

Sample Maps produced

The following maps were given to the local government units of Palawan, Aklan, and Iloilo for mangroves and seagrasses monitoring and management.

 

This map shows the extent of mangroves in Puerto Princesa (areas shaded with red) mapped through the MARS component of IAMBlueCECAM.

(Mangrove extent map refers to the spatial boundary of a mangrove forest regardless of the species composition, density, and percent cover.)

In this map of Bakhawan Ecopark, Aklan, IAMBlueCECAM was able to determine the location and species of mangrove present in the area. Green or Zone 1 refers to mixed mangroves; Red or Zone 2 are Rhizophora zone; while Yellow or Zone 3 are sparse/damaged mangroves.

(Through the Mangrove Zonation Map, similar family, genus, or species of mangroves were identified using the mangroves’ features such as location and zonation patterns and canopy properties.)

 

We thank the Philippine Senate for its unanimous vote in passing for the Third and Final Reading that will bring the country onward and upward into the realm of space technology and applications.

As the bills moves into the bicameral conference committee, we are optimistic that our legislators will see the benefits that the Filipino people stands to gain once the Philippine Space Agency is created and takes the lead in implementing the Philippine Space Development and Utilization Policy. 

The government, particularly the DOST, has been laying the groundwork needed for a strong space science program through various human capacity building and technology researches that it has funded.

The Department of Science and Technology – Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology shall remain at the forefront of enabling innovations, like the Philippine Space Act, that will sustain the economic gains and improve the lives of our fellow Filipinos.

 

DR. ENRICO C. PARINGIT

Executive Director

DOST-PCIEERD

Group photo with the Data Science graduates and organizers from DOST-PCIEERD and MOOCS.PH on June 11, 2018
 

As data science becomes a permeating technology in industry, practicing professionals like Zito Relova was able to hone their talents even more through innovative learning programs that help them expand their skill set from the comfort of their own home and schedule. With the goal of further addressing this demand, the Department of Science and Technology - Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development (DOST-PCIEERD) has produced 141 data training graduates and is looking forward to training more to keep up with the market.

“Being a big believer in online courses, the training course provided me with a way to keep learning on my own time without the need to be physically present in a school,” shares Relova, a Batch 1 graduate of the training program. “The course was able to provide me with the opportunity to learn these other tools that I could integrate with my existing skill set. It also opened my mind to new ways of doing things.”

DOST-PCIEERD Executive Director Dr. Enrico C. Paringit expressed optimism that the newly-trained data scientists will be a big boost to government, academe, and industry as they can help in crafting data-driven decisions and policies that can help shape the economy.

“The new technologies we enjoy today generates, processes, and uses enormous amounts of data which if put into good use can help solve most of our problems. The data scientists we have trained can provide a newer perspective in terms of looking for solutions or responding to the call of the times,” he said.

The trainees went through the pioneering Learning at Scale training, which was done purely online in partnership with local start-up MOOCs PH, and offers the needed trainings developed by different international universities through Coursera.

“The best part of the experience for me is the flexibility of the program. It allows people to continue learning despite having other obligations in life. You don't have to plan your life around your education anymore, you can always learn in your own time,” says Relova. “In line with that is the accessibility of the program. Massive open online courses are very affordable and can be taken by anyone with an internet connection. In my experience with online courses, I have been fortunate to meet people from all walks of life who are very grateful for the opportunities that learning online has given them.”

“Skills in data science also intends to respond to local needs and demands for science-based solutions,” adds Paringit. “In order to cater to this, we need to grow our own talent pool and community of experts in the field who can help address these demands and bring up our global standing in terms of data analytics.”

The course consists of four modules, namely: (1) The Data Scientist’s Toolbox, (2) R Programming, (3) Getting and Cleaning Data, and (4) Exploratory Data Analysis. Apart from this, Coursera also offers an additional wave of learning tracks with further topics centering on data and its applications to studying trends, global movements, human behavior, and the like.

These 141 graduates were automatically accepted for the next four advanced courses of the entire data science track training program, allowing them to maximize what they have learned and applying them to real life situations and at work. The advanced courses tackled Modules 6-8 of the Data Science specialization by Johns Hopkins University.

“Data science in the Philippines is still very much in its infancy. Only a small percentage of people are familiar with the field. Despite this, there are actually a lot of people who want to break into data science but are just not sure how to do it,” adds Relova. “The training definitely helped me expand my skill set. As a data scientist, I had always used a specific set of tools for my work. I knew about the other tools that existed but never really taught myself how to use them.”

Paringit said that the data science training provides the government opportunities to be more innovative and improve services, building a community of skilled experts that can increase the country’s global competitiveness in the field.

“It’s not just data science as it is,” adds Paringit. “Matching the right talents with the right skills will enable us to address common needs of the Filipino: internet usage, speech and image recognition, fraud and risk detection, logistics, and so much more.”

Interested partner institutions and/or employers can get in touch with the training graduates through PCIEERD’s Human Resources and Institution Development Division (HRIDD) at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

For more information and new updates on DOST-PCIEERD’s online learning modules, interested applicants may visit the Innovation Council’s official Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/dostpcieerd or the official website at http://pcieerd.dost.gov.ph.