The Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (PCHRD), through the initiative of its Institution Development Division (IDD) and Human Resource Unit, conducted an “Orientation on Ethics in Research” for Council staff on 1 February 2015.

In his message delivered by Finance and Administrative Division (FAD) Chief Mr. Edgar Ortiz, PCHRD Executive Director Jaime Montoya stated that the orientation is specifically designed for PCHRD staff to be aware of the laws and regulations affecting the conduct of health research in the country, to understand the process of ethics review in health-related researches, and to be familiar with the accreditation policies for Ethics Review Committees. (ERCs) This was accomplished through the expertise of Dr. Marita Reyes, National Ethics Committee (NEC) Chair.

“As people working in an Agency that coordinates and monitors research activities in the country, it is deemed necessary that we are aware of the ethical principles and standards adhering by these researches,” Dr. Montoya stated.

Dr. Reyes gave an overview on the national regulations in health research practice including the role of research institutions in ensuring research ethics.

“Good research practice ensures scientific validity and ethical soundness of research, promotes human rights and dignity, animal welfare, and environmental integrity, and assures research social value,” she disclosed.  

Dr. Reyes also discussed the Philippine Health Research Ethics Board (PHREB) mandate, registration, and accreditation program. PHREB, the national policy making body in health research ethics, develops guidelines for the ethical conduct of human health research and for the establishment and management of ethics review committees (ERCs).   

Among the PHREB criteria for accreditation of ERCs are the following: (1) functionality of the structure and composition, (2) adherence to international, national, and institutional guidelines and policies, (3) adequacy of the Standard Operating Procedures and consistency in its implementation, (4) completeness of the review process, (5) adequacy of the after-review procedures, (6) adequacy of administrative support, and (7) efficiency of recording and archiving system.

Lastly, she introduced the ethical review process of ERCs which includes (1) submitting of required documents, (2) reviewing of submitted documents, (3) deciding appropriate actions on the study based on the review, and (4) communicating with proponents.

Dr. Reyes noted that an ERC should be independent, multi-disciplinary, multi-sectoral, and pluralistic. “Its (ERC’s) primary function is to protect the research participant,” she also emphasized.

For more information about PHREB, please visit

Four researchers were given the “Most ready to publish paper award” in the 9th National Medical Writing Workshop and 2nd Writeshop for Young Researchers on 14-15 January 2016 at the Widus Hotel, Clark, Pampanga.

Dr. Stanley James Nieva of the Makati Medical Center, Dr. Rhodieleen Anne dela Cruz of the Philippine General Hospital (PGH), Ms. Richelle Ann Manalo of the University of the Philippines Manila – National Institutes of Health, and Mr. Ross Vasquez of the University of Santo Tomas received the award. The four research papers were deemed the most organized and well-written among the 36 research papers reviewed. The winners received tokens and certificates.

Twice a year, the Department of Science and Technology - Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (DOST-PCHRD), in cooperation with the Philippine Association of Medical Journal Editors (PAMJE) and Asia Pacific Association of Medical Journal Editors (APAME), conducts a writing workshop which aims to help young investigators in health and health social sciences acquire practical knowledge and skills in preparing scientific articles for publication in scholarly peer-reviewed journals.

Unlike the previous workshops wherein participants were not required to send in their  drafts, this batch of trainees submitted their draft journal manuscripts for pre-evaluation. Under the guidance of the faculty and mentor-facilitators, each pre-evaluated draft manuscript was revised during the workshop and used for lectures and exercises. After three months, all participants were expected to submit their revised articles to an appropriate scholarly peer-reviewed journal.

Another award given was the “Most Inquisitive Award” for participants who showed active participation during discussions. Mr. Jessie Nogoy, Jr. of Angeles University Foundation, Ms. Jessi Ellen Bautista of PGH, Ms. Mary Ann Igoy of Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, and Mr. Ivan Lawag of Adamson University won this award.

“You are what you eat” is a widely held nutritional principle, but what if the food that you eat contains a heavy concentration of lead?

Rice and fish are staple food for Filipinos. However, prior studies showed that areas such as Metro Manila showed heavy lead contamination in air, water, plants, and soil which may pollute agricultural and aquatic products commonly taken by the country’s people.

According to a study, ingested lead causes neurologic deficit, attacks bone marrow, and invades the peripheral and central nervous systems upon chronic exposure.

Lead is a principal environmental contaminant since it can be distributed in different components of the earth. Adults absorb around 20-30% of the heavy metal on ingestion while children absorb up to 50%,” the study explained.

To determine if rice and fish samples from Metro Manila contain lead and to see if the lead levels go beyond the acceptable limits, the study randomly collected ten varieties of rice and fish from Metro Manila markets and analyzed their lead levels using Flame Atomic Absorption Spectrophotometry (FAAS), a procedure to identify the chemical composition of samples using absorption of specific frequencies of light by atoms. Wet preparation of the experiment was done at the University of the Philippines Manila while analysis of lead concentration was done at De La Salle University Manila.

The result stated that all ten varieties of rice contained heavy metal lead; with two, the Malagkit and NFA rice brands, found to be beyond the acceptable limits of lead in food set by United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA).  The National Food Authority (NFA) rice brand is the cheapest and least processed brand in the country.

Likewise, the projected blood lead levels of all brands of rice exceeded the safety limit for children set by the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC); while four varieties such as NFA, Malagkit (regular), Dinorado and Malagkit (violet) went above the safety limit of lead levels for adults.

The study also showed that all kinds of fish exhibited levels of lead beyond the acceptable limits in food, children and adults. The author noted that these are all sellable kinds of fish, except for janitor fish (sailfin armored catfish) which was included in the analysis as some Filipinos extract fish sauce from it.

In another set of baseline studies conducted by the author, it was found out that vegetables, fruits, and shellfish in the same area had heavy metal contamination.

Considering the results, the study recommended doing similar studies on other rice varieties and fishes to assess Filipino staple food’s safety and to improve food processing methods to lessen lead contamination. Moreover, the study advised initiating environmental (soil and water body) clean-up and identifying other sources of lead contaminants for proper legal action by the Philippine government.

This study entitled “Heavy Metal Lead in Filipino Staple Food as Studied in Metro Manila, Philippines” written by Dr. Judilynn Solidum of the University of the Philippines Manilais available in ScienceDirect at ■ 


“Basta driver, sweet lover” is a playful slogan commonly displayed inside public utility vehicles in the country; yet it might not be sweet for jeepney drivers after all, as a study revealed that their working conditions pose threats to their health and safety.

The study conducted by the College of Engineering of the University of the Philippines Diliman noted that the average jeepney driver spends at least 10 hours behind the wheel, a situation that causes them to be subjected to awkward positions for extended periods, resulting in discomfort and body pains.

To assess the workplace layout of jeepney drivers and identify ergonomic hazards critical to their work, the study randomly selected jeepneys traveling within the University of the Philippines Diliman campus, and took measurements of all vehicle components used while driving these vehicles. The researchers also interviewed the jeepney drivers.

Ironically, the result showed that all drivers interviewed stated that they were contented with the state of their workspace, even though they confirmed that they experienced body ache after each working day.

Ergonomic problems definitely exist, the study emphasized. “The drivers just choose to ignore these problems simply because there will be monetary costs in solving these problems and because they have grown accustomed to these conditions,” the study added.

The study also noted inadequacies in the current dimensions of jeepneys based on the measurements of average Filipino workers. These measurements include the average height of the driver’s seat (32.44 cm) which is considerably shorter than the average length of the usual lower leg (45.27 cm). The average back rest height of the driver’s seat (53.89 cm) is also inadequate even with the presence of a head rest.

The side mirrors also cause unwanted difficulty for the driver due to their constant need for adjustment. In addition, almost 44% of rear-view mirrors examined were found to be fixed, and unable to be adjusted to suit the preference of the driver.

Public jeepneys manufactured in the Philippines are produced at minimum cost; jeepneys do not undergo proper design planning procedures that other vehicles are subjected to, thus resulting to poorly designed workspace detrimental to the health of the drivers,” the study explained.

Considering the results, the researchers proposed the need for proper workspace measurements for jeepneys. The researchers also advised that driver’s seats must be properly contoured, head rests must be furnished, and adequate distance between the steering wheel and driver must be provided for.

The spare tire should also be relocated to where it will not block the driver’s access to eliminate the need for the driver to use the passenger’s side when going in and out of the vehicle.

The study entitled “An Ergonomic Study on the UP-Diliman Jeepney Driver's Workspace and Driving Conditions” is available at ■ 

Filipino scientific research efforts received a major boost as top science agencies of the national government held the first ever Balik Scientist Program (BSP) Convention at the InterContinental Hotel Manila on November 27.

The speakers and participants of the 1st BSP Convention

The landmark event was feted by the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (PCHRD), with the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic, and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD), and the Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development (PCIEERD) and with the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Office of the Undersecretary for Research and Development.

During her welcome remarks, Dr. Amelia Guevara, DOST Undersecretary for Research and Development, lauded the altrusim of the Balik scientists, noting that the financial support extended by the program isminimal in comparison with what these returning scientists received abroad.

“Our Balik Scientists are not here for the money, but because they want to help. They want to promote science, technology and innovation… in order to improve the lives of the people,” Dr. Guevara pointed out.

With the theme “From Global to Local: Sharing Expertise to Accelerate Development through Science, Technology and Innovation,” the Convention aims to highlight the scientific, agro-industrial, and economic development through promoting researches of industries and other emerging technologies.

Among the featured researches were in the field of health such as the Designed synthetic peptides of Dr. Jonel Saludes, BSP awardee and Gregor Mendel Research Laboratory Head, Electronic data repositories of Dr. Romulo de Castro, BSP awardee and 3R Biosystems Technology Lead, and Genetic Counseling of Dr. Maria Melanie Liberty Alcausin, University of the Philippines Program Coordinator.

Present also to showcase their studies in the field of agriculture were Dr. Divina Amalin, BSP awardee and De La Salle University Manila Biology Laboratory Supervisor, Dr. Zenaida Magbanua, BSP awardee and University of the Philippines Diliman National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology Associate Professor, and Dr. Annie Melinda Alberto, Central Luzon State University Institute for Climate Change and Environmental Management Director.

Likewise, the researches in the field of industry, energy and emerging technologies were also presented. Among the presenters were Dr. Marlon Conato, BSP awardee and University of Houston Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Research Associate, Engr. Leo Almazan, BSP awardee and Space and Naval Warfare (SPAWAR) System Centre Intelligence Office Division Project Engineer, and Dr. Jose Maria Reynaldo Apollo Arquiza, BSP awardee and Cornell University Department of Biological and Environmental Engineering Postdoctoral Associate.

The event was also graced with inspiring speeches delivered by Dr. Reynaldo Ebora, PCARRD Executive Director, Dr. Doralyn Dalisay, BSP  awardee and University of San Agustin Department of Pharmacy Head, Engr. Samuel Franco, Mariano Marco State University External Relations and Partnership Director, Engr. Albert Marino, PCIERRD Policy Coordination and Monitoring Division Chief and Hon. Mario Montejo, DOST Secretary.

This is our path towards the future. We must constantly seek and cultivate the areas wherein our expertise can make the most impact,” Sec. Montejo emphasized during his message. 

For more information about the Balik Scientist Program, please visit its website at ■