Awardees Of The First Manila Water Foundation Prize For Engineering Excellence Named

The awardees of the premier run of the Manila Water Foundation Prize for Engineering Excellence (from left to right): Dr. Joel Joseph S. Marciano. Jr., Dr. Enrico C. Paringit, Dr. Evelyn B. Taboada, Dr. Merlinda A. Palencia, and Engr. Rex B. Demafelis after the awarding ceremony held at the Grand Ballroom of InterContinental Manila on November 24, 2015.

Manila Water Foundation and the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) formally introduced and honored the very first awardees of the Manila Water Foundation Prize for Engineering Excellence to recognize their innovative solutions to some of society’s problems and to inspire more home-grown engineers to use their talents in nation-building via projects that champion water, sanitation, environment, and sustainability.

After a thorough screening process that followed the opening of nominations in June, five (5) exemplary engineers proved to be the crème de la crème of the Prize’s maiden year.

Engr. Rex B. Demafelis, the current Vice Chancellor for Research and Extension of the University of the Philippines in Los Baños, was recognized for his work on the production and processing of sweet sorghum into bioethanol that enforces local accountability and positive social change.  He says that his venture of using sweet sorghum will not only address the issue of biofuel, but will also greatly contribute to the poverty alleviation of the country especially the farmers in ethanol producing provinces.

Poverty alleviation was also one of the inspirations of chemical engineer and University of San Carlos College of Engineering Dean Evelyn B. Taboada.  A native of Cebu, Taboada patented the bio-technology and chemical process of turning fruit waste such as mango peels and mango seeds into high value products. This initiative was not only successful in achieving 100% zero waste, it has also generated employment for numerous scavengers in her hometown.

Dr. Enrico C. Paringit, a professor at the University of the Philippines Diliman, used his expertise in surveying and hydrology to create maps that provide early warning systems and give vital information of possible flooding occurrences.  Adapting to the modern technology, Paringit and his team also offers mobile phone map apps, as he firmly believes that such products and services should be accessible to everyone, anywhere and at any time.

Bringing technologies from the lab to communities is a passion of Dr. Joel Joseph S. Marciano, Jr., a professor of electrical and electronics engineering at the University of the Philippines Diliman. Recognizing the need for more cost-effective monitoring of landslide-prone slopes, he and his team developed instrumentations that provide scientists with better insights into slope stability towards more accurate prediction. He also led efforts in developing engineering interventions for rapid restoration of communications capability in the aftermath of disasters.

Dr. Merlinda A. Palencia, who serves as the Dean of the Graduate School of Adamson University, spearheaded the creation of an affordable solution to the sewage and sanitation problem of the country through low cost wastewater treatment technology.  The application of locally abundant organo minerals (OM) that make wastewater treatment economical, safe, simple, odor-free and sustainable was proven effective in Palo, Leyte where it was able to address the septage problems in the temporary shelters of people affected by Typhoon Yolanda.

All five Manila Water Foundation Prize for Engineering Excellence awardees pose for a photo with Former President Fidel V. Ramos and the men and women of Manila Water Foundation led by its Board of Trustees.

Aside from the honor of being the premier recipients of the Manila Water Foundation Prize for Engineering Excellence, each awardee received PhP 500,000, a medal, and a trophy that features the work of renowned art photographer, Don Jaime Zobel de Ayala.  Said Prize, which is part of the Manila Water Foundation’s 10th anniversary scale-up, aims not only to recognize the Filipino engineers’ dedication in finding solutions that give positive and relevant impacts, but also to inspire practitioners and aspiring engineers to come up with innovations that Filipinos will greatly benefit from.

Ferdinand M. de la Cruz, President of Manila Water Foundation, explained the rationale behind the selection of winners.  “If you look at the five awardees, they have their own individual stories but a lot of them are both academicians and practitioners. They’re teaching engineering students and young engineers what they know and at the same time use their knowledge and scientific depth to solve problems or create opportunities.  They are not only acting on theory, but more importantly, their applications help their own societies. That’s what sets them apart and all of them have been doing this quietly without drawing attention to themselves. All of them have hit certain challenges along the way and yet they continue to pursue what they have started,” dela Cruz said.

DOST Secretary Mario G, Montejo, meanwhile, cited how each awardee has stepped up and addressed uniquely Filipino problems that require uniquely Filipino ingenuity. “To come up with innovation, you need two things.  One is to have very good engineering fundamentals and the other one, you have to be creative.  As far as engineering fundamentals are concerned, there is no difference between Filipino engineer and others.  Creativity serves as the clincher because Filipinos are innately creative. If you mix it (creativity) with engineering fundamentals you will come up with innovation engineering and that’s what makes Filipino engineers special,” Montejo remarked.

Former President Fidel V. Ramos (center) makes his signature hand gesture with (from left) Manila Water Foundation Board Member Abelardo P. Basilio, Philippine Foundation for Science and Technology President Filemon T. Berba, Jr., Manila Water Foundation Chairman Gerardo C. Ablaza, Jr., DOST Secretary Mario G. Montejo, Manila Water Foundation Executive Director Carla May Beriña-Kim, Manila Water Foundation Independent Trustee Cielito F. Habito, Pilar Habito, and Manila Water Foundation President Ferdinand M. dela Cruz.

The awarding ceremony of the Manila Water Foundation Prize for Engineering Excellence was graced by notable personalities such as Former President Fidel V. Ramos, former NEDA Director-General Cielito F. Habito, and social innovator Vicky Garchitorena. Manila Water Foundation Chairman Gerardo Ablaza, Jr. and DOST Undersecretary Rowena Cristina L. Guevara helped hand out the prizes to the awardees.

Former President Ramos, who is a licensed engineer, lauded the organizers for coming up with a set of extraordinary awardees. He said that he firmly believes that Filipino engineers need to be honored more. “It is about time that the engineering profession is recognized, as engineers help build the country. We must develop a culture of excellence that comes from the people’s power that leads to global competitiveness, and a condition of enduring peace and sustainable development in the Philippines.  Kaya natin ito (We can do it),” he said.

 

The Manila Water Foundation Prize for Engineering Excellence will be a biennial search and will continue in 2017.