Gina P. Lopez, managing director of ABS-CBN Lingkod Kapamilya Foundation, singled out a Department of Science and Technology (DOST) program for community empowerment as a way to get the Philippines out of poverty.

Dubbed as Community Empowerment through Science and Technology or CEST, the program is targeting to empower the poorest and most depressed communities in the country, via S&T interventions in health and nutrition, water and sanitation, basic education and literacy, livelihood/economic enterprise development, and disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation.

“We can get our country out of poverty,” said Lopez during the CEST Forum, one of the events during the recently concluded 2015 National Science and Technology Week at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City last July 27.

But, she added, “I need the help of DOST.”

Lopez shared the story of how the foundation invested on and developed Ugong Rock, a site in Brgy. Tagabinet, Puerto Princesa City, Palawan which features a spectacular 18 million year-old rock formation. The group developed it into a tourist attraction, with a zipline and caving adventure that propelled it into one of the must-see destinations in the city.

These developments turned what was once a poor community into what is now a major tourist attraction that brought livelihood opportunities to the people, thus elevating their quality of life. From an annual income of P 133,800.00 in 2009, their income improved, reaching up to 30 million by 2014.

“Ang goal nila ay alisin ang kahirapan sa buong barangay, sa buong munisipalidad (Their goal is to eliminate poverty from the whole barangay, the whole municipality), and I’m going to do that with DOST,” Lopez said in the forum. “That is why I’m here because we’re going agriculture, and agriculture alone is not going to do it. We need value added. We need science and technology if we want to go into processing.”

Providing equipment for food processing is just one of the many activities undertaken under CEST.

The others are supplementary food feeding program, distribution and utilization of clay water filters, deployment of Orvicidal/Larvicidal (OL) traps for dengue prevention, establishment of municipal-based weather forecasting system and early warning system through the installation of LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) and automated rain gauge, water hyacinth production development, installation of DOST’s Science and Technology Research-Based Openly-Operated Kiosk System or STARBOOKS in schools, assistance to MSMEs through DOST’s Small Enterprise Technology Upgrading Program or SETUP, packaging and labeling, and various trainings.

“Because every community has a story and every CEST model community is a work in progress all over the Philippines, we have now 79 CEST communities, where appropriate, reliable and timely S&T intervention can serve as bridging point in improving the lives of the people in the community,” said DOST Secretary Mario G. Montejo in a message read by DOST Usec. for Regional Operations Dr. Carol M. Yorobe during the forum. “With CEST, DOST is able to build more active, sustainable and smarter communities nationwide,” Montejo added.

Aside from Lopez, Mayor Enrico Z. Caping of Aroroy in Masbate, Joseph A. Centino of Northern Samar, and Mayor Jasmin F. Monton of Jabonga, Agusan del Norte also shared their experience and successful implementation of CEST which was established in response to President Benigno S. Aquino’s National Program on Poverty Alleviation.

According to Mayor Caping, DOST provided several equipment for their food processing facility in Aroroy, which eventually helped in the community’s livelihood and enterprise development. “Now, they’re earning on their own; they don’t receive salaries from the municipality. They help one another,” he said.

“If there is no teamwork, lives will not progress,” Lopez added.  (S&T Media Service)

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