Ebola virus and other infectious diseases were the focus of the Roundtable Discussion (RTD) on Coping with Emerging Infectious Diseases held on November 3, 2014 at Traders Hotel Manila. The RTD was organized by the National Academy of Science and Technology, Philippines (NAST PHL) through its Biological Sciences Division.
The recent outbreak in Western Africa and cases in the United States have given Ebola worldwide attention. Ebola is a virus from the family Filoviridae that causes African Hemorrhagic Fever which can be fatal if untreated.
Acd. William G. Padolina, president of NAST PHL, stressed the need for caution and preparedness for the eventuality that Ebola and other serious infectious diseases would reach the Philippine shores. One reason that makes our country vulnerable is the large number and mobility of Filipino overseas workers.
National Scientist Angel C. Alcala, chair of the Biological Sciences Division and focal person of the RTD, spoke of the controversies on the detection and control of Ebola in people returning from countries of West Africa. In support to Acd. Padolina’s statement, he also emphasized the need to learn more of its control before it possibly hits our country.
Acd. Veronica F. Chan, member of the Biological Sciences Division, explained the epidemiology of the Ebola virus including its evolution, incidence, distribution, and control. According to Acd. Chan, “Ebola” came from the name of a river in Sudan where it was discovered. However, even before it was named, there was already an epidemic that occurred in Marburg, Yugoslavia. The African Green Monkeys, which were exported to Germany for studies in vaccine production, brought the virus endemic to Africa. From this came about the other name, Marburg Ebola disease, for the African Hemorrhagic Fever caused by the virus. The first simultaneous outbreaks of Marburg-Ebola disease in Zaire listed 88% fatality rate and 55% in Sudan.
Dr, Noel Lee J. Miranda, an independent public health consultant, talked about his experience and gave some background on his work with the identification of the Ebola Reston strain virus in the country. According to Dr. Miranda, aside from the capacity to cause fatal hemorrhagic fever, Ebola virus can also mutate. It is the primary reason why animal reservoirs of the virus like fruit bats can transmit it to humans and other animals such as monkeys and even pigs.
The National Academy of Science and Technology, Philippines (NAST PHL), in partnership with the OML Center, Philippines held the Third National Climate Conference with the theme “Climate-Related Risks and Disasters” on September 25 at the Traders Hotel, Manila. The conference highlighted the importance of science in understanding and adapting to climate change, and to its impacts on people and ecosystems. It aimed to discuss, develop, and promote science-based and timely response to climate-related risks and disasters.
President of NAST PHL, Academician William G. Padolina, stated that support to climate conferences and research endeavors “can generate more knowledge on climate change and help bridge the science and policy action gap in the country”. He further emphasized that the conference’s goal is “not just to exchange information and ideas but also to influence policy at some point.”
Civil Defense Deputy Administrator of the Office of CivilDefense and Keynote Speaker, Dir. Romeo Fajardo,discussed his agency’s initiatives after Typhoon Glenda. He cited policies like the R.A.9729 or the Climate Change Act, as well as the R.A 10121 or thePhilippine Disaster and Risk Reduction Management Act and announced that the hazard maps will be finished this year.
Plenary Sessions featured experts in climate research. Acting Deputy Administrator for Research and Development of PAGASA, Dr. Flaviana Hilario, talked about climate trends and implications to Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) / Operational Climatology. Atmospheric Scientist and Associate Director for Research of the Manila Observatory, Dr. Gemma Teresa Narisma, discussed the country’s increasing risk and exposure. Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur’s Municipal Vice Mayor Hon. Cristina M. Camba and Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM) Officer, Engr. Josephine Lapeciros presented her province’s best practices on disaster response.
Papers presented during oral presentations were: Climate Science, Disaster Risk Reduction, Community-based Assessment on Disaster Mitigation and Sectoral Approaches on Climate Change Studies. Further, there has been a growing interest and publication of papers in Climate Research, specifically on the most-researched themes including: 1) Social & Migration, 2) Food Security, 3) Climate Science, 4) Natural Ecosystem, and 5) Disaster Risk-Reduction Management.
While researchers from the academe have been the majority of participants since the first conference, a notable increase in the number of participants from other sectors, such as from local government units (LGUs) and non-government organizations (NGOs), has been noted according to Academician Rodel Lasco, Chair of the NAST Task force on Climate Change.
Among the posters exhibited during the conference, two winners were recognized. First place was awarded to “Production of Emergency Food Reserve (EFR): Government-Private Sector Cooperation (GPC) for Community Disaster Preparedness” by Lourdes Solidum-Montevirgen, Annabelle Flores, and Monica Manalo from Industrial Technology Development Institute, DOST while second place was awarded to “Influence of Different Tropical Cyclones on Runoff Behaviors of a Forest Watershed in the Philippines” by Nathaniel Bantayan, Edwin Combaciler, Jan Joseph Dida, and Aldin Alegre from the College of Forestry and Natural Resources, UPLB.
Academician Lasco concluded the conference by acknowledging the presence of many young researchers and further encouraging everyone to continue supporting climate research in the country.
Four distinguished scientists, Academicians Gavino C. Trono, Angel C. Alcala, Ramon C. Barba, and Edgardo D. Gomez, were conferred the rank and title of National Scientist by President Benigno S. Aquino III by virtue of Malacañang Proclamation Nos. 737, 782, 783, and 843 on August 12, 2014 at the Malacañang Palace, in recognition of their outstanding works and contributions to science and technology in the country.
Academician Trono was recognized for his extensive studies on the culture of seaweed species, such as Eucheuma denticulatum, Kappaphycus alvarezii, Gracilaria spp., Caulerpa lentillifera, and Halymenia durvillaei, which benefited many people among the coastal populations. He identified and described 25 new species of marine benthic algae and successfully implemented 45 research projects, which resulted in the publication of 142 scientific papers. He established the largest phycological herbarium in the country —the G.T. Velasquez Herbarium in the Marine Science Institute of the University of the Philippines,which houses more than 70,000curated herbarium specimens of the seaweed flora. He obtained his Bachelor of Science in Botany from the University of the Philippines Diliman (1954), Master of Science in Agricultural Botany from the Araneta University (1961), and Doctor of Philosophy in Botany (Marine) from the University of Hawaii (UH) through an East West Center Study Grant (1968).
Academician Alcala was recognized for his seminal and original research on the systematics, ecology, and conservation of vertebrates, particularly in herpetology, by providing valuable basic knowledge on the country’s rich biodiversity and ecology. He served as a pioneer scientist and advocate in the protection of coral reefs leading to a national policy and program that established the no-take marine reserves, a specific type of marine protected area (MPA) set aside by the government where no extractive activity is allowed. The MPA mode of protection of marine ecosystems has been cited internationally and show-cased in the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, U.S.A. as a model of coastal resource management and conservation. He obtained his B.S. in Biology magna cum laude from Silliman University in 1951 and his M.A. and Ph.D. in Biological Sciences from Stanford University in 1960 and 1966, respectively.