DOST pushing for Mindanao to become science & tech hub

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 16 Oct) – The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) is pushing for the development of a strategic plan that would help transform Mindanao into a prime science and technology hub in the country and in Southeast Asia.

Prof. Fortunato dela Peña, DOST undersecretary for science and technology services, said they are currently working with various sectors in the island for the creation of the strategic plan that would fully develop Mindanao’s science and technology sector as well as its vast resources.

“We’re mainly looking at helping Mindanao realize its full potentials through science and technology,” he said in a press conference here.

Dela Peña said the proposed plan will initially concentrate on the upgrading and enhancement of existing research institutions, facilities and projects in the island.

He said it would work for the strengthening of research and development activities and programs of colleges and universities through partnerships and collaborations with the agency and research institutions abroad.

Dela Peña, who graced the Mindanao cluster celebration of the National Science and Technology Week here, said the plan will include strategies that would help establish product niches for Mindanao based on its available resources and technology strengths.

“It will also set the required investments from the government and the private sector in terms of engineering and science and technology facilities, projects and scholarships,” he said.

Dela Peña said the strategic plan would set mechanisms that would help determine whether the adopted strategies are doable or not.

The official said among the technology-based sectors and industries in the island that would benefit from the plan are rubber processing, Halal and agricultural biotechnology.

Rubber production and processing is mainly concentrated in North Cotabato province but plantation expansions are ongoing in South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat provinces.

DOST opened last year a satellite Halal laboratory in Cotabato City but the agency is presently constructing a full laboratory and testing facility in Koronadal City.

This city, South Cotabato and Bukidnon provinces host field testing sites and research facilities for genetically-engineered Bacillus Thuringiensis or Bt corn of international seed companies.

A field test is currently ongoing at the University of Southern Mindanao in Kabacan, North Cotabato for a genetically-engineered eggplant variety dubbed “Bt Talong.”

Dela Peña, who had authored a study on science and technology adoption in the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said Mindanao could develop the three sectors as among its priority niches.

“The resources and technologies are already available here and we can further enhance that through the strategic plan,” he said.

Dela Peña said the niching strategy, which was earlier adopted by ASEAN neighbor Brunei Darussalam, would help provide focus in terms of development in the island.

He said Brunei built its economy by creating niches for its five top investment and development priorities, which included petroleum and biotechnology. (Allen V. Estabillo / MindaNews)