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Sec. Mario G. Montejo (Photo Courtesy of Mr. Paul Jersey Leron of the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Research and Development)

A breaking news from the Philippine Daily Inquirer last Sept. 15 got me in the mood to write about the new Department of Science and Technology  Sec. Mario Montejo.  In the news article,  the secretary is crowing over a ‘new’ mosquito trap to help fight dengue.  I got the impression that this is the Filipinnovation that the DOST is pushing strongly especially that Montejo is an inventor himself.

But as I was writing this post, I had difficulty searching for background information on the new secretary. However, I did come across some interesting sites on Filippinovation which I think should merit another post.   I still need to think about the concept (of Filippinovation) but diagonal reading tells me it is nothing more like a banner of sorts.  Probably similar to Philippines 2000 of Ramos – more of a battle cry than real concrete actions.  I could be wrong however (about Ramos or the Filippinovation movement, and I did say ‘diagonal’ reading),  I have personal biases on fundamental (some call it non useful, others call it the ‘future’) science.

So I’ll focus on the new secretary. Experience tells us that in a country similar to ours (no forward looking policies),  much of the directions depend on who currently is the boss.  I hope that I could inform you more but so little is publicly known about the new secretary.

Mario Montejo was the president of  Northwest Steel (NS Inc).  NS prides itself as the inventor of a fully-automatic ‘robotic’ parking facility. Read about this robotic parking facility here.   He was also a president of Tree Top Adventure Philippines Inc.  A company which specializes in eco-tourism theme parks. Think zip line.

He has a BS in Mechanical Engineering degree from the College of Engineering (CoE), UP Diliman. He has no postgrad training. During his time, a post grad in Engineering is probably unheard of. But he is one of the ‘100 Outstanding Alumni Engineers of the Century’ of the CoE.

He was awarded a Gold Medal Award for Creative Research from the Filipino Inventors Society Inc. for his automatic parking invention.  His other inventions include: the first locally made GSM-based water sensor and rain gauge that can be used for monitoring and forecasting; a steel pole design that is now used by Meralco, Napocor, and the National Electrification Administration; gabions (cylinders filled with soil) used for slope protection and used extensively now by National Irrigation Administration. (from Dateline Philippines) Add also the special zip-line he designed in one of the eco-theme parks.

President Noynoy said Montejo’s team was responsible for fun rides (slides and waves) of Water Fun using Filipino technology. This is how he clinched the top science post. Seriously.

The president of the Islands would like to have a DOST Secretary who can make indigenous technology. Technology that is bred and useful for the country. Montejo’s work fits that description.

So what do we expect from a DOST lead by Montejo?

Doable projects in the same mold as the innovations of Montejo, like: making available to students computer tablets at a cost of only P3,000, not P25,000 per unit; distributing “health sachets” to reinforce the lugaw distributed in the government’s school-feeding program; finding ways to defeat dengue, harnessing wind energy through a “windmill project” to produce cheaper electricity; implementing a prototype monorail system in cooperation with the University of the Philippines to address traffic congestion and air pollution problems. (from Domini Torrevillas and Rina Jimenez-David, Domini gave a more condensed summary so I used her’s.)

At least they are not considering Kris A. to be the weather forecaster in their plan to have a Philippine Weather Channel.

Since I don’t intend that this post be opinionated.  I am currently restraining myself from writing more.  Probably I should stop here and wait until a few more months to give my opinion about the secretary.  I need to observe more.

Oh by the way, I think Noynoy is clueless on his science policy (I hope he has one!) for the Islands.

Sources (not in any particular order):

[1] The President’s Men and Women: DOST chief tapped as problem solver (posted: July 22, 2010).  This is by my favorite Helen Flores (of the Mathematical model solves traffic post).  I sure hope her facts are correct this time.

[2] New DOST secretary bats for ‘localization of technologies’ (posted: July 28, 2010) in Dateline Philippines.

[3] Changes at DOST (posted: August 20, 2010).  An opinion piece by Inquirer columnist Rina Jimenez-David.

[4] Palace denies lobbying Montejo for DOST (posted: August 12, 2010). This is from Sunstar Network Online.

[5] DOST develops mosquito trap in fight vs dengue (posted: Sept. 15, 2010).

[6] Science secretary’s feet on the ground (posted: August 24, 2010). An opinion piece by PhilStar columnist Domini Torrevillas.

[7] Philippine-made hi-tech parking (posted: Sept. 14, 2010). Philippine Daily Inquirer.