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Sunday, July 24, 2016

National Science and Technology Week Speech By: Engr. Elpidio M. Paras

Engr. Elpidio M. Paras was the guest speaker for the Opening Ceremonies at the National Science and Technology Week Celebration held at Grand Caprice, Limketkai Center, CDO Yesterday July 23, 2016.

Engr. PARAS is the CEO of Parasat-HD and Regional Science and Technology Ambassador for Business Community Sector.

Check out his message below.

“Juan Science One Nation”

First of all, I would like to thank Director Al Alamban, for giving me this opportunity to address all of you as Region Ten’s Science Ambassador.

As we celebrate the Philippines’ Science and Technology Week,  it is but proper to put in mind that in last few years the DOST’s  initiatives and strategies have surpassed that of the previous administrations .

Under the leadership of  then Sec. Mario Montejo, who incidentally is an inventor and innovator with an entrepreneurial background, the DOST has put  the country’s science, technology and innovations in the limelight thru landmark  achievements in disaster risk, reduction, and monitoring such as Project NOAH and the UP Dream Lidar Project.

Other DOST projects of note are the  nationwide Juan Konek Free Wifi  service under the ICTO, the hybrid Road Train concept and the Diwata microsatellite. Making some impact among many SME’s is the DOST grants in aid, which has enabled local entrepreneurs to purchase and upgrade their equipment used in fabrication, food packaging, and manufacturing.

Little known is  the recently launched Filipino weather channel  called DOSTv, which is now being streamed via YouTube with five daily episodes Mondays thru Fridays. We plan to offer this soon in combination with Parasat’s Cagayan de Oro Weather Channel (PCTV CH4).
 The recent advances made by the DOST led Project Noah for example, has enabled for the first time the synergy between science technology and disaster risk reduction and monitoring applications which allow anyone to access real time weather data, hazard mapping and geospatial information systems. The rapid flow of information has from what used to be a centralized weather data monitoring and dissemination system to an instantaneous localized wealth of information enabling every Juan to blunt and mitigate the effects of climate change. Barely a year after typhoon Sendong ravaged Northern Mindanao, Project Noah contributed valuable information rapidly such that during Typhoon Pablo, a zero casualty figure was experienced by the fact that everyone had evacuated to higher ground in minutes before the flash flood waters inundated the riverbanks.

Let me digress for a while and talk on how Science and Technology has molded me and has become my undue advantage in business.

When I started thinking of becoming my own boss 40 years ago,  with my recently acquired engineering degree and my fondness for Science and Technology,  I knew I had the tools for my future.  I could have opted to work for multinational companies in Manila after graduation, but I wanted the freedom to explore, build and innovate my path towards a successful business and family life.  I could also have been an airline pilot like some of my classmates in La Salle for I was an aviation nutcase.

But as fate would have it, with limited business opportunities hinging on technology in Cagayan de Oro at that time, my start up endeavor in 1976 was a radio television repair shop called Paras Electro Industrial Systems on Cruz Taal St.

Armed with a reasonable kickstart fund from my parents, I kept the business for a while until I discovered the latest fad..discotheques!  Since I was doing a lot of tinkering in sound systems, the repair shop business gave way to building and installing Disco sound and lighting systems for venues in the Visayas and Mindanao.

The fad only lasted a few years , my wife and I had to grapple with the challenges of a growing family and a restaurant business that was going to be our first successful milestone in our career as entrepreneurs.

Sesame Sandwich Shop which was CDO’s first American style  fast food restaurant, became famous not only because of its delicious burgers, fries and spaghetti but also with one homegrown innovation..Wide Screen TVs showing the latest NBA Finals game or the thrilling Tyson fights which were delivered live via satellite.

Of course, Paras Electro had caught on the latest craze in the early 80s..Satellite Television technology.  An American friend of mine, Jack Vollrath from Sheboygan , Wisconsin brought me two precious gifts to tinker with in 1983. In a 20 ft container, he imported an ultralight aircraft kit and a 12 ft Satellite dish.

Being crazy with airplanes since childhood did help me decide on the ultralight to play with and in a few weeks, I became a self taught test pilot with no flying experience at all.  The fragile Waspair Tomcat ultralight flew crow hops in my first try like the Wright brothers, and before I knew it, I could fly along the Lumbia runway like a real pilot. But the euphoria of flight ended suddenly on July 4th, 1984, when I lost control of the kitplane during takeoff .

So my stint as a test pilot ended as suddenly as it started and soon the parabolic dish that Jack brought became the center of my attention.  We assembled the dish and made it work so much so that during the EDSA revolution in 1986, people of note from government and the military would go to our house in Puntod to watch the blow by blow account of the miracle that happened at EDSA and the departure of the dictator  Pres. Marcos, who incidentally pinned my medal as winner in the National School Science Fair in 1968. To this day, that first parabolic dish still stands and is being used at our studio facilities in Lapasan.

After EDSA,we built many satellite antenna receiving systems all over the country for bigtime businessmen and restauranteurs.  Our locally made satellite parabolic antennas brought us a lot of opportunities especially that one of our clients was former Sen. Ramon Magsaysay Jr, the acknowledged pioneer in Cable TV in the Philippines.

Cable TV at that time was simply replays of movies and sports programs using videotape, and only local tv networks were available on live broadcasts. The introduction of satellite technology in the cable tv headend brought about worldwide television reception to the living rooms nationwide.
Pretty soon, CNN, ESPN, HBO and other foreign programs became daily fare for every Juan.

The innovations in Cable TV distribution in the 21st century did not stop there as we introduced addressable decoder set top boxes allowing pay per view and anti piracy measures. Fibre optic technology was introduced in the mid 90s and to this day, Fiber to the Home (FTTH) technology is being deployed everywhere.

Our company , Parasat Cable TV Inc, also started offering internet services in the early 2000s  with an unheard of speed at that time of 128kbps. Today our network is upgrading its IP broadband capacity to 2,500,000kbps or 2.5Gbps to improve its growing internet services for its subscribers in CDO and Misamis Oriental. It is simply amazing as to how technology has evolved at lightning speed and has emerged as a major factor in the lifestyle change we are now experiencing.

Science and Technology has always been at the forefront of my successful endeavors, and today , we continue to leverage our knowledge and experience in exploring new avenues where technology gives us a distinct if not unfair advantage over the competition.

What should be the direction for Science and Technology in the Philippines for the future? Let me share some of my thoughts before I go..

1) While the DOST’s primary mission is to guide and take a leading role in  S& T, I would like to believe it can do more.

 In other neighboring countries such as Taiwan, S&T expenditure is over 2.9% of national budget  and the MOST (Ministry of Science and Technology) has for years championed and financed  programs that have allowed a small country to leverage its brain assets to be Ranked Top Three in the world in a good number of products and innovations.
 For example:
#1 in the world in Foundry, IC packaging and testing, CDs and glass fiber
#2 in the world in IC design, PNDs (Personal navigation devices), LCD panels, IC substrates, Silicon solar batteries, ABS plastics
#3 in the world for WLAN, OLED panels, PC boards, Nylon fibers , Polyester filaments

Our new mission should be, is to be able to create and make new, wide market leading products and technologies that will spearhead a new era in manufacturing for the Philippines. We need to have new long , medium and short term goals, something that will leverage not only our human resource assets but our vast mineral resources as well. There is so much silicon in our beaches, that China has been dredging mountains of black sand in many locations. Why haven’t we explored on how to process silicon so we could make solar panels cheaper?

2) How much are we spending for higher education related to S&T?

I am sorry to compare ourselves to Taiwan, but just 4 decades ago, this nation which has an area smaller than Luzon, was poorer than the Philippines. Today, it is an economic powerhouse ranked among the top 15 countries in the world. As of 2010, Taiwan’s budget expenditure for PHDs and master’s degrees was 47,970 million TWD or the equivalent of P70,573M pesos (70.57Billion).

We really need to stop the brain drain as it was prevalent in the past and start convincing our talents abroad to came back and contribute to nation building. Parallel to this, the government has to create , fund and implement the establishment of the appropriate institutions , infrastructure and locations for our scientists and innovators to accelerate the commercialization of marketable ideas and applications.

Clearly, we need to ask Congress for additional budget; how else can we compete with other countries, when we are not investing as much in Higher Education. Human resource is one of our greatest assets. Shall we be contented to be just OFWs or call center operators? There is so much talent that is wasted here in this country.

3) It is also about time we rethink our ICT strategies for the next two decades. We all know that prominent among the failures of our country is the obviously slow internet speeds. We have been ranked among the slowest in the world, while backward countries like Mongolia are thumbing their noses at us. (Theirs 78mbps vs Ours 2.9mbps).

 Many see the absence of competition and the presence of duopoly among the Telco players like PLDT and Globe, as the primary reason for this debacle. While this may be partially true, what is really lacking is a government funded common broadband infrastructure (similar to public highways) which provides open access to all players big and small, such that economies of scale dictate broadband pricing and affordability.

The agencies of government tasked to regulate, implement and accelerate the deployment of faster internet  and broadband connectivity has to set a well defined short and medium term goal to catch up with other countries. For example, we must aim for an average internet speed of say 10Mbps (approx. 3x current speeds) all over the country. For us to realize gains in ICT development, connectivity shall not be limited only to the urban areas but also in the rural areas where communications is as vital. We laud the efforts of the DOST ICTO to make available Free Wifi in many municipalities nationwide. However, the project has been encountering a lot of difficulties in bridging the middle mile, which is between the major regional nodes to the designated municipalities and cities, due to the lack of fiber infrastructure where last mile providers like cable operators and local ISPs can easily and affordably interconnect.

The situation today is such that there is a great divide wherein telcos who have deployed both primary fiber ring infrastructure, usually control the marketplace and  internet connectivity to benefit their own last mile goals. It is not uncommon for them to resort to predatory pricing to the detriment of smaller ISPs which buy bulk connectivity from them.

In other countries like Australia, the government has intervened against the telco giants Optus and Telstra, who have not deployed enough affordable connectivity in the missionary routes and areas, by establishing the National Broadband Network Corporation (NBNCO) to directly compete and improve ICT connectivity and pricing for everyone.

The idea of a national broadband infrastructure is not as bad as it was the center of a controversy during the Arroyo administration. I believe there is still time for the situation to change as we now have an administration whose direction is to change for the better.

By the way, we have also partnered with the ICTO in delivering the Juan Konek Free Wifi to selected municipalities in the province and hopefully more Filipinos will appreciate the efforts that the DOST has embarked on.

4) I think we need to build science parks in each of the island groups for a start. As in Taiwan, the science technology parks and innovation corridors in Hsinchu, Taoyuan, Taichung, Keelung, Tainan etc., have reached prominence in the development of  products  and equipment related to renewable energy, LED and LCD panels, electric vehicles, precision machinery, optoelectronics and biotechnology. When I was building satellite antenna systems in the 80s, I had personally visited startup companies in the science park in HsinChu and the companies I got equipment from are now giants in the industry.

5) Let us not also forget we have a lot of scientists, inventors and innovators who have products which fail to enter even the domestic market due to lack of funding. In other countries, tech startups with great ideas have no problem with venture capital. I think there are a lot of businessmen here who have the capacity to support these startups if govt funding is not available. The DOST should connect these viable innovators to the right investors so the time to commercialize would be much shorter.

6) Indeed there is a lot to be done, because there are a lot of challenges for a developing country such as ours. The recent economic gains we have attained should not make us complacent but instead inspire us to focus, explore and innovate further.

Under this year’s slogan , “Juan Science, One Nation”, we should continue to support the DOST in its mission, “ To be the direction provider, leader and coordinator of the country's scientific and technological efforts, ensuring that these are geared and utilized in areas of maximum economic and social benefits for the people.”

By the way,

Let us thank Pres. Rodrigo R. Duterte, for appointing Sec. Fortunato “Boy” dela Pena, who is not new to DOST, having served in various capacities including Undersecretary for S&T services until recently. Sec. Boy is well known in S&T as he also headed the National Research Council of the Philippines and we expect him to continue supporting the projects of DOST which have made an impact on Philippine society, and endeavor to do better .

Lastly, I honestly think we all need this singular focus..”Juan Science, One Nation”, and if I may add…walang iwanan sa science and technology.

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National Science and Technology Week is an annual celebration organized by the Department of Science and Technology which is aimed at bringing Science and Technology closer to the people.
The celebration of the National Science and Technology Week has begun since as early as 1950s. The event was instituted in 1982 through Presidential Proclamation 2214, which was amended through Republic Act 169 in 1993 to set the National Science and Technology Week every third week of July.

The National Science and Technology Week encompasses the display of local innovations which exhibits the ingenuity of the Filipino people. These exhibits can serve as an effective avenue for technology developers, investors, S&T service providers, and clients to interact and pursue potential opportunities. Educational forums and discussions are also presented as one of the highlighted activities to increase the spread of awareness about Science and Technology.

The NSTW has always been filled with activities that let people experience the significant role of Science and Technology in improving the citizenry’s quality of life which consequently leads to national development. Moreover, the NSTW is also goaled at getting the people involved in the protection and preservation of our environment. During this celebration, the capability of local S&T experts are highlighted to inspire the youth and other sectors in believing that Filipinos can do it and that local technology definitely works.

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