Article and photos by Dr Joey D. Ocon, the 2018/19 ASEAN Science and Technology Fellow placed at the Department of Science and Technology, the Philippines.
Growing up in Mindanao, where abject poverty and frequent blackouts abound, I realised from early on that the ASEAN Science and Technology Fellowship could be the key to helping people get access to water and electricity, feed themselves with nourishing food, and more importantly, improve their lives and the lives of the people around them.
When I was given the honor of becoming an ASEAN Science and Technology Fellow, my mind was already set on what I wanted to do. While the Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development (PCIEERD) has given research funding to projects related to energy, there has not been a comprehensive review of the priority energy research and development (R&D) areas in recent years. Working with the best team at my host division, we have organised a series of focus group discussions with key stakeholders from the industry, government agencies, and academic institutions to identify projects the agency should focus on to realise the Philippine government’s vision of 100% electrification using renewable energy. To this end, my Fellowship activities have been centered on expanding the role of renewable energy in improving energy access in rural areas.
Although the R&D funding is still limited due to the government’s economic constraints, a renewed focus is important to put the limited resources to the right problems, envisioning that this will improve the lives of poor Filipinos in off-grid islands. A year-long fellowship might be short, but the seed of cooperation between my university and host agency has been planted. For when the why is clear, the how is easy.