High school students competing in the 5th ASEAN Plus Three Junior Science Odyssey (APTJSO) in UP Los Bañostook on the challenge from leaders of the local science communityto study how scientists can better assess the effects of climate change on the world’s rainforests. 

The APTJSO, now on its 5th year, is an annual science competition among gifted students in the ASEAN region plus those in Sweden, Korea, and China. The Philippines is hosting the science tilt for the first time this year with the theme “Climate Change and the Rainforest.”

It is organized by the Department of Science and Technology-Science Education Institute (DOST-SEI) in cooperation with UP Los Baños.

“Our rainforests in the country are among the richest in biodiversity in the whole world. Explore the scientific arena in search for better ways to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change,” said DOST Sec. Mario G. Montejo in his keynote message. “We look forward to paving the way for the gifted youth in the ASEAN Plus Three region.” His message was delivered by DOST Undersecretary for Science and Technology Services Dr. Rowena Cristina Guevara. 

The Philippines is among the nations most at risk of climate change hazards. However, rainforests play a key role in curbing the negative effects of climate change by producing oxygen, helping recycle and clean the water, removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and absorbing rainwater to prevent floods and landslides, among others.

Guevara earlier urged the participants to know the issues in the science community and start studying them as early as now.

“Our future will be determined by the efforts you are making right now,” she said in her opening remarks.“Since you are the ones who will, in the future, address the environmental issues challenging our world today, you might as well start taking interest in such issues and studying them earnestly now. I hope your endeavorstoday will result in original, innovative ideas that no one else has come up with so far.”

Meanwhile, World Agroforestry Center Country Coordinator Dr.Rodel D. Lasco said that there is a lot of uncertainty on how climate change affects the forests. “We do not know how our ecosystems can change. And that is the challenge for you – the next generation scientists,” he told the APTJSO competitors.

Lasco made these statements after showing computer simulations of the world’s forest cover or vegetative cover in the year 2100 given the present effects of climate change. The simulations painted differing scenarios, indicating the uncertainty of what the future may hold as far as the globe’s vegetative cover is concerned. Some forest types will increase and some may decline in number, he added. 

Global warming should not reach more than two degrees in the next 100 years, he said. However, it has been projected that within that time frame, the planet will be 5-6°C warmer than it is now.

PH fired up for competition

Meanwhile, the Philippine delegation, composed of four teams from two Philippine Science High School (PSHS) campuses, have prepared hard for the competition. The Philippines grabbed the overall championship in the first four years of the APTJSO.

Held from June 13-18, the APTJSOfeatures a variety of activities such as poster presentation, laboratory skills assessment, project pitching, field work, and tree planting. There will be parallel activities for coaches as well. 

DOST-SEI Director Dr.JosetteBiyo is confident with the Philippine teams’ chances, seeing how they prepared hard for the competition. Biyo also expressed her belief that the changes instituted in the PSHS curriculum have helped in the students’ training and preparation.

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