Hosted by EIC Mikael Angelo Francisco, Ask Theory shines the spotlight on Pinoy scientific brilliance, in a fun and entertaining “kwentuhan” format. Each episode of Ask Theory features a Pinoy scientist from one of the various scientific disciplines. In a very casual conversation, guests explain what they do in simple terms, as well as share their fascinating stories: how they got into science, the challenges they face, what motivates them to pursue their fields, what future scientists from the Philippines can look forward to, and so much more.
Episode 29: Paano Pinaghahandaan Ang Mga Sakuna Sa Pilipinas?
This episode features Dr. Enrico Paringit, the Executive Director of Philippine Council for Industry, Energy, and Emerging Technology Research and Development (PCIEERD) under the Department of Science and Technology. A licensed geodetic engineer, he served as the project leader of the Disaster Risk and Exposure Assessment for Mitigation (DREAM) initiative.
We talked about how the Philippines is improving the way we prepare for, respond to, and deal with the consequences of natural hazards, how DOST-PCIEERD supports research in the Philippines, the relationship between science and policies, important considerations for drafting S&T policies, and more.
Listen to Ask Theory Episode 29 here:
Mikael Francisco 00:20
Hi Doc Eric
Dr. Enrico Paringit 00:21
Yes, good evening, Mike. Medyo hectic maraming mga interesting things being being proposed. Yung mga proposals.
Mikael Francisco 00:30
Sana mapagusapan natin yan during the next half hour. Pero for now, I want our audience to get to you know a little better. So can you tell us a bit about what you do, and more importantly, how you got interested in science?
Dr. Enrico Paringit 00:43
Well I took up engineering by ano. And I have it as a profession of course. And then I became a faculty member of UP at the same department where I studied and then eventually I took up my masters and doctoral degrees. So that’s how I got myself immersed into science. Not just the engineering side of it siguro sabihin na natin pati yung traditional na hard science because I was doing some some work on marine science. So it’s a so it’s basically a cross between engineering, environment and basic science which I actually enjoy din, have been excited about.
Mikael Francisco 01:23
What keeps you busy these days? Ano yung umuubos sa oras nyo these days ngayong pandemic?
Dr. Enrico Paringit 01:29
Well, I don’t usually talk about, mamaya na natin pagusapan yung trabaho but other things that occupy my time are you wouldn’t believe but I still read a lot of papers.
Mikael Francisco 01:39
Dr. Enrico Paringit 01:40
Which I, I mean scientific papers ano. Because I try to keep myself updated sometimes din kasi i’m still being sought for some kind of review, I still advise students. Actually, one of my students did his dissertation presentation yesterday so throughout the pandemic period siguro sabihin na natin I was advising him on you know, what to do, what are the strategies. And these are the remnants the remaining students the advises that I have. So those are the other things that i’m quite passionate about apart from the work that i’m doing here at the PCIEERD.
Mikael Francisco 02:14
Naalala ko po nung college ako, pagpasok na pagpasok ko ng UP…kasi, Computer Science yung first course ko sa UP, we were handed some fliers to encourage us to transfer to different engineering courses.
Dr. Enrico Paringit 02:27
Mikael Francisco 02:28
So parang at the time, I think they were trying to get more students into some specific engineering courses. And one of them was geodetic engineering. Now yung panahon na yun di ako familiar masyado sa geodetic engineering so tinitingnan ko yung paper sabi ko, ano itong geodetic engineering nato? So long story short, hindi ko di ako tumuloy sa pag shift sa geodetic engineering. But I think this podcast is an excellent opportunity for people who are not familiar with geodetic engineering to sort of get to know what it’s about. So we have this thing sa episodes namin na we have our guest explain to an imaginary 7 year old child one keyword or one science related topic. I’d like you to explain to our imaginary 7 year old child kung ano ba ang geodetic engineering.
Dr. Enrico Paringit 03:14
You know I have a six years old so well I encounter these kinds of questions often. I mean the same, the same degree. And if I..if he were to ask me which is not surprising, I will tell him what geodetic engineering is in this way, no. Well you know the different sizes and shapes, diba? So I would say geodetic engineering is about measuring these sizes and shapes, but of the earth and what’s in it essentially. Nagsusukat lang kami ng ano, ang hugis ba ng mundo ay bilog? Ang hugis ba ng mundo ay flat? Ang hugis ba…ang gaano ba kalaki ang mundo ano? Gaano ba kalawak ang mundo, yung lupa tsaka dagat. Yun. So all things that can be measured using you know the technologies that are out there and ways to…different ways to measure it. And how it relates of course to other to other things. Because I think the value of these measurements and these surveys and this monitoring are going to be crucial when you know apply it in different fields.
Mikael Francisco 04:24
So ang ganda ng pagkakapaliwanag. Very simple po yung pagkakapaliwanag nyo. Pero it still sounds impressive. So speaking of impressive things, What is the most impressive or interesting thing you learned about, specifically the Philippines, during the course of your professional career?
Dr. Enrico Paringit 04:41
In relation to my degree, what I would say is that I learned that there are 2000 major rivers in the Philippines.
Mikael Francisco 04:51
Wow. Ang dami
Dr. Enrico Paringit 04:53
Well meron kasing parang categorization pa ng what a major river is no. But well ito shape related na naman tsaka size related. These are of sizes of about 100 square kilometers which is about, that’s 10,000 hectares or more. Yun yung kanyang, the you know the water that flows through it, the watershed, the catchment, so that’s about the size. Of course there are smaller rivers. And there are actually more islands. I don’t know if I’m allowed to relay also that there are more than 7,107 islands. There are actually more ano, there are about 7,600.
Mikael Francisco 05:32
Oo kasi yung 7,100 parang naulit ulit lang sya e. So…
Dr. Enrico Paringit 05:36
Yes, it’s a very paano ba. Parang it’s almost like a urban myth. It’s a myth that’s quite perpetrated but in the surveys that have been done using newer technologies, it was determined that, if you consider islands that are smaller than a hectare, you would arrive at that figure. So kung co consider mo pa yun nga yung mga lulubog lilitaw tama yun na pwede pang mabago bago. So yeah. Siguro what makes it exciting is that hindi constant itong mga bagay na ito. That’s why we have to keep on measuring, we have to keep on monitoring, kasi nagbabago e. Sumabog yung bulkan magbabago na naman ang hugis. Binaha tayo magbabago na naman ang course ng ilog. So it’s not, these things are not constant all the time, even the technologies to measure it is not constant. It’s not the way how we… siguro I mean you would not fault our forefathers for saying 7,100 kasi at that time, that was the technology available to them. So that made them determine that there were 7100 pero ngayon kasi may satellites na, may GPS na, you know you have these sophisticated measuring instruments. So you would really expect that there’s sort of a refinement.
Mikael Francisco 06:49
Nabanggit nyo po yung monitoring. And actully kapag napapagusapan ang earth and ang monitoring, and ang Philippines, ang isa sa mga unang unang naiisip ko kaagad natural hazards. So lalong lalo na with the Philippines where we’re positioned on the globe, and how prone we are to natural hazards. I’ve talked to, just a sidebar lang, I’ve talked to some scientist friends of mine and they…they’ve said na they really discourage using the term natural disaster. So,
Dr. Enrico Paringit 07:20
That’s correct. Kasi when you, wala naman kasing naturally occurring disasters. Disasters happen, when a certain…ang definition kasi namin nyan, if certain elements of value get exposed to hazards, but even natural hazards because there can be man made hazards din.
Mikael Francisco 07:54
Dr. Enrico Paringit 07:55
But correctly you could attribute it, you’re just talking about the natural hazards. If you are exposed to them then you will be subject to some some kind of disaster. If you do not take measures to reduce that risk or reduce the vulnerability.
Mikael Francisco 08:01
Yeah that is, that is correct. It takes time actually to get used to saying natural hazards or yung risk kesa yung natural disaster kasi usually naririnig talaga natin natural disaster. In a way we are improving the way we talk about or we communicate yung about natural hazard dito sa isang bansang napaka hazard prone kagaya ng Pilipinas. Pero nagi-improve din ba ang paraan ng natin ng pagresponde natin sa nangyayari dahil sa natural hazards? How has technology, specially specifically here in the Philippines how has that improved over the years in the way we respond to the consequences of natural hazards?
Dr. Enrico Paringit 08:41
I think you should have 3 things when you talk about disasters and the disaster risk reduction. And then it goes to the cycle of you know having to prepare for it and then having to go through it, responding to it. And then having to recover from it and then having to, you know, plan for it. Planning meaning you know, you find ways to mitigate so that it will not impact you as severe as the previous events. So yun yung tinatawag na disaster management cycle, reduction cycle no. In all of those plans, I think pinaka malaki talagang component ng disaster mitigation. Because yun yung ano e, parang it’s a more proactive approach of reducing the impact of disasters. A crucial ingredient of disaster risk mitigation is to be informed diba? Kung alam mo na na mahuhulugan ka na ng bato diba maiiwasan mo yung bato e. So it’s it’s the same way. You want to predict when it will happen to you, diba? How large will the impact be or the damage be, or casualty be if if and when it happens. And then what are your what are your options? So if you have these options for you know getting away from it, backing maybe getting a an item to cover you from it or to shield you from that falling rock, marami kang ma pre-present na options e. And these are I think improvements we can make diba. And ang tawag nila dito development diba. Kasi the more options that you have, the more developed you are. Your ability to have as many options as possible that will let you arrive at that – with the least consequence diba, with the least amount of damage, will be your, of course, best choice. Again kelangan mo ng information kaya and yun nga that’s where usually I come from. I come from a field where you really need a lot, to do a lot of these measurements, you really need to do a lot of these analyses, in order to provide people with a lot, you know, a set of options they can actually appreciate and then make judgements for. Kasi sometimes, as as practitioners, we don’t also want to parang be lording it over them, diba. We just want to inform them and let them make the decisions kasi we thought that their decisions should not only be based on the information na pino-provide sa kanila about what’s going happen, but also you know, they have other considerations that come into play. Ano yung kanilang socio-economic conditions, ano yung kanilang cultural inclinations, ano yung kanilang mga pinoprotektahan na mga values, etc. etc. So, but that’s for them to decide. So merong part talaga na maipro-provide namin sa kanila but we recognize there might be other considerations that can be made in order for them to arrive at a decision. And usually of course that’s what we want to get into, to somehow also influence kasi there are other considerations at stake that you know that could weigh much more than what they’re putting a premium for, things like that. So nagkakaroon na ng ganon ng na dynamics. And the important thing is you have this set of information that they can ano, you can you can balance with, yung yung decision making when it comes to disaster risk management.
Mikael Francisco 12:20
And I can imagine that the whole process of risk monitoring and assessment is very complicated and I would say siguro sometimes even exciting din. Maybe while you’re looking at the data you start seeing things you didn’t expect to see. And I am sure na throughout your career, marami po kayong ganyan. So maybe you can share with us some of your yung experiences that stand out about your time during the your career as a person working in risk monitoring and assessment?
Dr. Enrico Paringit 12:55
Ah, okay. Siguro sa banggitin ko nalang yung pinaka…one of the first instances where really science has been used to ano, to to drive decisions that are crucial to saving people, to saving lives. Ganito yung nangyari, I will take you back to 2012, August. It was habagat of 2012. So usually around those periods ang nag pre prevail talaga sa atin yung habagat, yung constantly raining for longer durations. For 3 days umuulan na ano, and in fact bumaha na sa Marikina river. Tumigil na yung ulan, tumigil na. But then, so of course bumabalik na yung mga tao. But then what worked for us while we were working on this new installation of sensors by ah PAGASA by ? ano. Tapos nakita namin teka ano incredibly about 10 o’clock, 9 o’clock at night ang lakas ng ulan. Super lakas, above normal. I cannot remember the exact number anymore, siguro mga 5 years ago siguro kaya ko pa. But the rainfall volume was incredibly large. And then at that time, ni re-ready na namin yung mga tools namin sa modelling. So you measure, you monitor, you model. Para to understand what’s happening. And then you want to somewhat predict what’s going to happen using the same modelling tool. So yun ang role ngayon ng data. So nung pinasok namin yung data dun sa model, that was previously calibrated using some previous events that have happened, like you know Ondoy, and I think the year before that, meron din mga severe rainfall and flooding that had happened. And then we found out, teka, if you have this kind of rainfall that happened in these mountains of Marikina watershed, what this tells us is that it will flood for I think the, I think the 3rd time it will peak in 3 days’ time. Pero isipin mo yun, pagod na yung mga tao, pabalik na sila sa kanilang mga bahay and then sasabihin mo ulit umalis kayo kasi babaha ulit. And i could remember vividly we estimated it could come around 2 o’clock in the morning in San Mateo. And about 4 o’clock in the morning, in Markinia LGU or in Marikina city. And then I have to make a phone call something like 11 o’clock, 12 o’clock at night, tapos sasabihin ko sir babaha mamaya sa ano. Sigurado ka Eric babaha? Kasi yung mga tao pagod na baka false alarm yan etc. etc. So I had to you know, make that kind of parang judgment, di naman judgement call but that that kind of recommendation. But of course, with good reason kasi the data is supporting it, the models are helping us with the analysis. We are you know becoming a little bit more precise with the way with how we now sort of estimate when is the flood going to come, how high is it going to be. So nung nasabi na namin yun, sige kinall nila yung ano no yung ating warning, sabihin na natin. Of course they asked people to leave ano. To go to go back to their supposed evacuation areas and then yun nga lo and behold, nangyari nga about 4 o’clock, dumating yung baha ano. You know they were really pleased with the with the with that kind of discovery, with that kind of advice, kasi at least maraming nasalba ano. Maraming naniwala at marami yung tumaas yung confidence dun sa science.
Mikael Francisco 16:39
Buti nga yan nakikita ng mga tao yung talagang impact yung effect ng science sa everyday life. Kasi you know when we talk about science, we tend to think na it’s a subject, or it’s pinagaaralan sya, minsan nakakalimutan natin na yung science bahagi talaga ng buhay, or pang araw araw na buhay. Gusto ko naman pagusapan natin ang trabaho. Sabi nyo nga kanina ano medyo pagusapan sabi nyo kanina pagusapan natin mamaya ang trabaho, ngayon, pagusapan na natin ang trabaho. Tell us a bit about your current role sa PCIEERD or people who are familiar with DOST, maybe not so familiar with PCIEERD and some of the recent projects of your agency din.
Dr. Enrico Paringit 17:22
Sige pagusapan muna natin what PCIEERD is all about. So PCIEERD is actually one the 3 sectoral planning councils of DOST that supports, of course, research and development, as well as other for science and technology initiatives of government. We’re mostly known as a funding agency, so now i’m wearing that you know, that that other hat, from the other side where we decide which research projects, which science projects get funded. So not only do we fund, we also of course monitor we see to it that they, that these projects are being done right, that are accomplished according to their set objectives. It’s also an opportunity for budding innovators and scientists to make their ano, to make their ideas a reality. Essentially that’s what we do. But of course there are key sectors that we support as PCIEERD. Kasi meron pa para sa health. Meron pa para sa agri and natural resources but The Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology sa research and development council is just that. We support initiatives in these 3 major fields – industry, energy and emerging technologies. We have very, pano ba, fresh programs on artificial intelligence, we just you know, rolled out, launched our DOST AI R&D, a roadmap, kasi it sets out basically the pano ba, the tone, the magnitude of support that we’re going to put through AI, because we believe it’s going to really change the way we do things. That’s number one. Number two we have major projects on smart cities. So we also believe that you know in order to be, in order for our cities to become not just disaster resilient, yung binabanggit ko kanina, it also takes a lot of intelligence, a lot of science work in order for our lives, in living in cities a lot more bearable, if you must say. But of course we also like to lead very fulfilling lives, and since we live mostly in cities, we’d like to see to it that we provide the necessary science and technology to make living more fulfilling in cities. So isa yung sa mga tinitingnan natin na project. And of course there’s a whole lot of projects in data science, because that also supports a lot of the things we want to do for smart cities, that feeds very well into our programs on artificial intelligence. So those are the more, pano ba, more recent, exciting projects that we can feature. But there are there’s definitely a PCIEERD project, a PCIEERD initiative for everyone, so that everyone can actually relate. Sabi ko nga from the smallest, from the nano, to the space
Mikael Francisco 20:25
Dr. Enrico Paringit 20:27
More macro, mega, meron tayong ano, meron tayong footprint
Mikael Francisco 20:31
That’s great to hear. Although i would imagine that to make these projects possible, pumapasok din yung mga policies natin sa science and technologies sa philippines. And maybe part of that is drafting and recommending mga sci-tech policies para sa bansa. So what are the things you consider when you draft and recommend new science policies in the Philippines and right now, what are you prioritizing?
Dr. Enrico Paringit 20:55
Yeah. Interesting question. Kasi there’s always this interplay parang the way I would interpret that question is something like this. It’s like you know chicken and egg sometimes. Because I believe na you create policy for science but at the same time you also create policies from science diba?
Mikael Francisco 21:15
Dr. Enrico Paringit 21:16
By doing science it enables you to come up with a set of policies, particularly those that are going to be pursued of course by government, so that we can act better, we can do better. Meron naman yung mga policies for science, for example, are we going to support artificial intelligence? Are we going to sort of regulate how it works? Are we going to support to support 3D printing or additive manufacturing as it is called in the more general sense. So these are these are, how I would sort of classify the S&T policies and I think a big part of this policy interplay, is to make sure that of course, one, science will not play any harm, it will not lead to any harm. Number two is that science will actually be a place to discover and then science will actually make an impact to people, it will make people’s lives better. So para sana ano, yung tatlong yun yung tinitingnan natin.
Mikael Francisco 22:23
What if someone wants to talk to you outside of this podcast and reach out to you guys, maybe to learn more about what you do. Or to get in touch with you about your you know research or how you help fund research projects, what’s the best way to reach out to you?
Dr. Enrico Paringit 22:37
Well, we have our social media page in Facebook, in Twitter in LinkedIn. Meron na kami sa Youtube, and Instagram. And then recently also Tiktok lahat actually ng mga avenues for making us a little bit more visible because we’d also like to have a reach because I think those are really the kinds of questions Mike that we wanted to get from people. Talk to us about how we can help you transform. How we could help you realize your you know your good ideas, how to make them into reality in every way. We offer a lot of opportunities in terms of programs and initiatives that will enable innovation. Sana sasabihin namin, innovation from all walks of life. If you are a student, we can probably help you with some of the your project needs, including fabrication, testing, having it subjected to different kinds of tests, so that it will work. If you’re a would be investor, you’re looking for new business we could probably link you know with some researchers who has come up with a product who might have a very good prospect for market. If you’re a you know an ordinary consumer, we could actually hindi na namin masyadong trabaho yun, but we could guide you in… for example if you’re a consumer, food products, we could get you some guidance on how you will should choose food products. Things like that, and with respect to food safety. So marami. Marami tayong pwedeng ano paguusapan, but I think the most important point is that we start you know we start engaging. And that’s where the magic begins, kapag pinagusapan natin how can we work together, diba. I think that’s the very much the key for what science can do. Kahit yung discovery you won’t be able to discover anything if you don’t ask the right que…the questions. We don’t we don’t even mind even getting sabihin na tama yun there’s no such thing as a wrong question we’re always open to you know, all of these questions and if these are seeking assistance, these are all about helping you out, making progress or solving your problems, I think DOST PCIEERD will always be, we will always have some answer. It may not also be the right kind of answers, it might not always be the suitable answers for you, but definitely we will do the best that we can to provide you with that you know, best possible answer. Ganon siguro.
Mikael Francisco 25:24
Alright. And what is one piece of advice that you can give for anyone who wants to become a science professional in the Philippines?
Dr. Enrico Paringit 25:32
Ah, okay. Always ask questions. Never stop asking questions. Because when you, if you do that…of course, getting the answers is one part of that. But i think it’s the never ending pursuit for the truth, for the valuable and for what’s going to make impact are I think the ones that are most exciting. So never stop wondering. Never stop asking questions because I think ano din yan e. It’s also a source of also self-fulfillment. For me that’s actually the what piques you everyday. Kasi I think if you wake up one day and realize that you know it seems like you know it all, parang it’s I think the day you would be considered dead. Kasi parang wala ka nang ano e, wala ka nang drive to wala ka nang magiging drive kasi it seems as if, it seems as if yung excitement kasi nawawala e. Yung passion mo nawawala when you don’t have that drive for excellence and knowledge.
Mikael Francisco 26:43
Okay. So that was a great piece of advice. From, for the listeners of Ask Theory, never stop asking questions. So ang ganda lang. So thank you Doc Eric so much for your time and for sharing your expertise and your experience with us. And we hope that more people will learn to appreciate research and actually reach out to your office para yung mga ideas. Ang Pilipino kasi napaka innovative, napaka creative, magaling magisip. And hopefully yung ideas na yun, magkaroon sila ng drive to reach out to you para maging realidad yung mga ideas na yun because right now, we need all of the great ideas out there and i’m sure DOST PCIEERD is happy to support these ideas for the improvement of science and technology in the Philippines. We hope we can invite you again in the future for another episode and stay safe good luck sa mga projects nyo.
Dr. Enrico Paringit 27:36
Yeah. Thank you very much, Mike. Great show and I wish also Ask Theory a lot more ano, a lot more episodes to come. Thank you
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Author: Mikael Angelo Francisco
Bitten by the science writing bug, Mikael has years of writing and editorial experience under his belt. As the editor-in-chief of FlipScience, Mikael has sworn to help make science more fun and interesting for geeky readers and casual audiences alike.