Balik-Scientist assists MMSU in nipa tech commercialization

By Kimberly S. Miguel, StratCom Correspondent


To help sustain the gains of the National Bioenergy Research and Innovation Center (NBERIC), a professor emeritus of the California Polytechnic State University in Pomona, California has returned to the Mariano Marcos State University (MMSU) to serve as Balik-Scientist anew. 


Dr. Fiorello Abenes, who has been visiting MMSU since 2008 to help fast track its renewable energy initiatives, arrived in the university on September 12. This year, his task is to help the university commercialize its village-scale nipa technology to rural communities.


His three-month stay as Balik-Scientist is being sponsored by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) through the Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development. 


Dr. Abenes said the project involves organizing and training cooperatives in Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte, Aparri, Cagayan, and Ilocos Sur in collecting and processing bioethanol from nipa, in separating methanol from ethanol to evade methanol poisoning, and in developing a simple kit for testing methanol. They will also be trained in developing alcohol stove for home and commercial use to lessen dependence on liquefied petroleum gas. A guerilla scientist at heart, he also seeks to explore other possible NBERIC technologies and to solve the problem of distilling residues during the distillation process. 


To encourage the adoption of university’s nipa technology, the Balik-Scientist said “bioethanol needs to be looked at as a sustainable and renewable asset which multifaceted impact cannot be solely mapped by economics and not only considered as an additive to reduce cost.”


Prior to his return to MMSU, Dr. Abenes has been serving as consultant to the NBERIC. He was instrumental in bringing more Citizen Diplomacy Action Fund grants to the center by submitting project proposals to the United States Department of State. These include the training of Ilocano women on organic soap-making, and an immersion camp for high school girls in Ilocos Norte earlier this year. 


Welcoming Dr. Abenes in the university, NBERIC director Roque Ulep said his expertise will surely contribute to the success of the project, and to the widening of nipa technology in rural and coastal communities. 


MMSU President Shirley C. Agrupis thanked the DOST for always choosing the university as one of the beneficiaries of its Balik Scientist Program (BSP), which serves as big help in bringing impactful science and technology initiatives to the communities. This is in-line with the university’s goal to create relevant and innovative research programs under her ACHIEVE agenda. President Agrupis emphasized that, in essence, Dr. Abenes is not just a visiting professor, but a treasured part of the MMSU community. 


BSP encourages Filipino scientists and technologists to return and reside in the Philippines to share scientific and technological expertise for the development of the country. (HLY/DPTJ, StratCom)