DOST Secretary Fortunato dela Peña (File photo by Cristina Arayata)

MANILA – Three new projects designed to boost the country’s fight against the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic are now underway, Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Secretary Fortunato dela Peña said on Monday.

In an interview with the Philippine News Agency, dela Peña said a PHP200-million budget was set aside for the projects: Addressing and Responding to Covid-19 through Health Research (ARCHER); S&T for a Resilient Community against the Pandemic (STRAP); and Rebuilding the Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources in Response to Covid-19 (ReAARRC).

He said PHP90 million was allotted for ARCHER, PHP60 million for STRAP, and PHP50 million for ReAARRC.

Dela Peña said the projects will be implemented soon to address concerns on health, agriculture, natural resources, and emerging technology.

ARCHER would cover interventions involving vaccines, repurposing of existing drugs and supplements or new formulations, diagnostics, and kit validation studies.

He said ARCHER would cover artificial intelligence--driven models and prediction studies, and enhancement of facilities, laboratories, and hospital equipment.

"Regulatory studies and other public health researches related to Covid-19 will also be undertaken," he said.

Dela Peña said fund for ARCHER does not include other related DOST projects such as the test kit developed by researchers from University of the Philippines, clinical trial on melatonin, among others.

"The test kit and other approved and ongoing (clinical) trials were already funded, and not included in the ARCHER's funding," he said.

STRAP, on the other hand, will include studies and technology development on work-from-home tools, workplace safety, safe mobility and transport, response and coping with the new normal. This would also include testing and calibration of locally-developed medical devices, geospatial and information and communications technology solutions for Covid-19, detection and disinfection technologies, as well as emergency food for communities and front-liners.

Under ReAARRC program, he said the DOST would work on research and development (R&D), technology transfer, and information dissemination to ensure food security during the pandemic and under the new normal.

He said ReAARRC is different from the Good Agri-Aqua Livelihood Initiatives Towards National Goals (GALING) program that the agency launched last April to help address food security. Both programs are under the DOST-Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development.

"ReAARRC is broader, but it could add resources to GALING as needed," dela Peña said.

GALING involves information dissemination, distribution of food products to affected communities and to front-liners, and promotion of urban gardening and community background vegetable gardening, village-scale chicken meat and eggs production system.

"GALING is mostly on the utilization of technologies generated from R&D. ReAARRC could include R&D to address concerns related to the new normal environment for agriculture," dela Peña said. (PNA)