Revolving around the theme “Science and Technology for Society: Solutions to Long-Standing Concerns,” the National Academy of Science and Technology, Philippines (NAST PHL) conducted its 42nd Annual Scientific Meeting (ASM) on 8-10 July 2020 via Zoom Webinar – making history as the first ASM to be conducted virtually due to the current pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

On 7 July 2020, the first ever online Scientific Poster Session was launched through Facebook Live and reached 7,700 unique accounts. The digital posters were uploaded to a public Facebook group, where engagements of the individual posters were monitored and recorded.

The ASM presented topics on the country’s long-standing major issues and concerns in the fields of: (1) health and food systems; (2) energy, water, and transportation; (3) environment, climate change, and blue economy; (4) ICT, shelter, and other infrastructure; and (5) science education and talent retention. A special plenary session on the recent COVID-19 pandemic capped the 42nd ASM.

The ASM is premier gathering of the Philippine science community. The ASM gathers public- and private-sector institutions and stakeholders to formulate science-based recommendations to be transmitted to the President of the Philippines, as well as to the Cabinet. This year’s ASM was hosted by the NAST Engineering Sciences and Technology Division (ESTD), chaired by Academician (Acd.) Reynaldo B. Vea.

In her welcome remarks, Acd. Rhodora V. Azanza, NAST PHL President, gave a brief introduction about NAST PHL and its mandates, which are to recognize outstanding achievements in science and technology and to serve as an advisory body to the President and the Cabinet on matters concerning science and technology.

Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Secretary Fortunato T. de la Peña, in his opening message, expressed his appreciation that this year’s ASM program focused on the preparation of the Science, Technology, and Innovation (STI) Foresight, a 30-year strategic plan for science and technology in the country. He was also pleased to see that the topics to be discussed were aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Sec. de la Peña emphasized the need to come up with solutions to long-standing concerns, especially now that the threat of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases have brought so many challenges in various disciplines.

The first plenary session focused on Food System and Health. Acd. Eufemio T. Rasco, Jr., chair of the NAST Agricultural Sciences Division (ASD), presented a lecture on Feeding Metro Manila in 2050 while Acd. Antonio Miguel L. Dans, member of the Health Sciences Division (HSD), presented the Latest Data on Diet and Health.

Following the first plenary session were the series of lectures on Energy and Water in the Time of COVID-19 delivered by Acd. Filemon A. Uriarte, Jr., member of NAST ESTD, and Transportation System in the New Normal by Dr. Jose Regin F. Regidor, professor at UP Institute of Civil Engineering.

Acd. Azanza rounded up the first day with a lecture on Refocusing the Philippine Blue Economy: Sustainable Use of the Marine Environment During the New Normal, and Acd. Rodel D. Lasco, member NAST ASD, gave his insights on the topic of Climate Change and Environment.

On the second day, Acd. William T. Torres, member of NAST ESTD, talked about Harnessing the Digital Ecosystems Approach for Small and Medium Enterprises. His presentation was followed by Acd. Benito M. Pacheco, also a member of NAST ESTD, who delivered a lecture on Adapting the Philippine Building Act of 2020 with S&T Innovations in Regulations and Standards for a New Normal.

The afternoon session opened with a plenary session on Science Education and Talent Retention where Acd. Christopher C. Bernido presented his lecture in Achieving High Learner Performance Levels Before, During and After a Pandemic: The CVIF Dynamic Learning Program. Acd. William G. Padolina then presented a paper on Removing the Roadblocks in the Philippine Higher Education System towards Excellence in STEM. Acd. Bernido and Padolina are both members of the NAST Mathematical and Physical Sciences Division (MPSD).

The last speaker of the second day was Mr. Jaime Augusto Zobel De Ayala, chairman and CEO of Ayala Corporation. He presented the Challenges Under the New Normal brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic and the ways to move forward.

The third day featured a plenary session on Learnings from the COVID-19 Pandemic: Preparing for the New Normal, with speakers from the lead government agencies. Dr. Maria Rosario S. Vergeire, undersecretary of the Department of Health, presented data on the country’s response to the pandemic, and the guidelines each individual must follow to lessen the spread of the virus.

The next lecture was given by Dr. Ma. Regina Justina E. Estuar, from the Ateneo de Manila University, who is project team leader of the PCHRD-funded Feasibility Analysis of Syndromic Surveillance using Spatio-Temporal Epidemiological Modeler (FASSSTER). Dr. Estuar discussed the methods and protocols that their team uses to model the pandemic.

The last lecture was presented by cabinet secretary and co-chairperson of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), Secretary Karlo Alexei B. Nograles. He discussed the efforts that the IATF-EID has been undertaking to address the various challenges on the economy, business, and education.

During the ASM, NAST PHL also recognized outstanding contributions in the field of science and technology in the Philippines through a virtual awarding and conferment ceremony. NAST PHL conferred the title of Academician to Dr. Arnel N. Del Barrio, Dr. Charlotte M. Chiong, Dr. Christopher P. Monterola, Dr. Maribel G. Nonato, and Dr. Windell L. Rivera.

The rank of Corresponding Member was also conferred to environmental engineering professor Dr. Francis L. Delos Reyes III, orthopedic surgeon Dr. Ramon B. Gustilo, innovation advocate Dr. Gonzalo C. Serafica, and pharmaceutical expert Dr. Annabelle P. Villalobos. NAST PHL also recognized 12 Outstanding Young Scientists (OYS) from various fields.

The 42nd ASM Resolutions were presented by Resolutions Committee Chair Acd. Vea and DOST Secretary de la Peña delivered a response.

NAST PHL is an attached agency to the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and serves as the country’s premier recognition and advisory body on matters related to science and technology.