“For many Filipinos, microplastics, plastics, when you go to the communities, the problem is very abstract to them,” says Deo Florence L. Onda, an associate professor and deputy director for research at the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute.

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Deo Florence L. Onda, associate professor and deputy director for research at the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute.

Onda believes that one of the great obligations of scientists is not to just do research, but to actually tell stories that would relate to people. Researchers should extract information, translate it into data, but at the end of the day, make a story out of this and tell that to the people who will benefit.

Through the stories derived from the data gathered, Filipinos would come to know how plastics are affecting them in terms of their health, food security, environment, and their general welfare, according to Onda.

One of the outcomes of this microplastic research project is a facility, the MicroQUIB—Microplastics Quantification, Identification, and Biodegradation Facility—built for microplastics researchers who collect samples, but do not have this type of facility in their own university. MicroQUIB is an all-complete facility dedicated to research and training housed at the Marine Laboratory of the University of the Philippines-Marine Science Institute located in Bolinao, Pangasinan.

Since there is a need for more people to do the work on the ground, the other component of the project is the development of training programs targeting academics, those working in universities, and also those from national government agencies, such as the national Coast Guard, as well as plastics research enthusiasts.

One of the beneficiaries of the training program is at a university in Davao City, who is now capable of teaching others. “Training programs like these are very important,” the teacher beneficiary said, who also emphasized the capability to teach the next generation.

These training programs also allow them to do surveys and contribute to data generation. To date, over 50 people have been trained who can now do plastics, microplastics, and macroplastics data collection in their locality.

“We always believe there’s no monopoly of science. We need to decentralize experts, and as more people do their work on the ground, we understand the issue better, so we can actually come up with solutions that are more long lasting, more appropriate, and actually sustainable,” Onda says.

The research on Plastics and Microplastics in Marine Environment, funded by the Department of Science and Technology-National Research Council of the Philippines (DOST-NRCP), was one of the webinars conducted during the celebration of the 2022 National Science and Technology Week held at the World Trade Center in Pasay City on November 23–27, 2022. This webinar also focused on the importance of protecting the environment for sustainability that, incidentally, is one of the thrusts of the current Philippines DOST administration.

Source: Republic of the Philippines Department of Science and Technology; Geraldine Bulaon-Ducusin, S&T Media Service