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.
Academician Barba was recognized for his distinguished achievements in the field of plant physiology, specifically on the induction of flowering of mango and on micropropagation of important crop species that have earned him national and international accolades. His pioneering work on the induction of flowering and fruiting of mango resulted in the change from the seasonal supply of fresh fruits to all year round availability of abundant fresh mangoes. This mango induction technology was patented not only in the Philippines but also in other countries, such as USA, England, Australia and New Zealand. However, he did not collect any royalty from the patent so that ordinary farmers can freely use the technology. Academician Barba completed his B.S. in Agriculture at the University of the Philippines College of Agriculture (UPCA) (1958), M.S. in Horticulture at the University of Georgia (1962), and Ph.D. in Horticulture from the University of Hawaii (1967).
Finally, Academician Gomez was recognized for his sterling contributions in invertebrate biology and ecology, giant clam culture and restoration, and coral reef assessment and conservation. He steered the world’s first national-scale assessment of damage to coral reefs that led to worldwide conservation initiatives, such as the Global Reefs and Risk Analysis, Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network, and the International Coral Reef Action, among others. He shepherded the development of the Marine Science Institute (MSI) at the University of the Philippines (UP), where he served as the founding director. UP-MSI had grown from being a small research unit into to a world-class research and teaching institution in marine science. He provided significant inputs in the baseline mapping of the Philippines to assist in the handling of the contested Spratly Islands and in laying the groundwork for the Archipelagic Studies Program that the UP System has established. Academician Gomez obtained his B.A. in English and B.S. Education summa cum laude from the De La Salle University (1962), M.S. Biology from St. Mary’s University Minnesota (1967), and Ph.D. Marine Biology from the University of California San Diego (1973).
The Rank and Title of National Scientist is the highest honor given by the President of the Republic of the Philippines to a Filipino man or woman of science who has made significant contributions in one of the different fields of science and technology. The award was created pursuant to Presidential Decree No. 1003-A on December 16, 1976. Since 1978, 41 Filipinos, 16 of whom are living, have been conferred as National Scientist.