SESAM kicks-off silver anniversary through a national summit

The University of the Philippines Los Baños-School of Environmental Science and Management (UPLB-SESAM) hosted the Philippine Environmental Science Summit (PESS) 2022 with the theme “Only One Earth: The Role of Environmental Science in Achieving Sustainable Development Goals” last June 10, 2022. The summit provided a platform for collaboration among environmental science educators from various Higher Education Institutions, government and non-government agencies to revisit the environmental science education in the country and assess how it has contributed to the advancement of the environment science field. The invited guests, panelists and attendees discussed the current state and future directions of environmental education in the country. The summit program was divided into 3 parts: a plenary session, round table discussion and workshop sessions.

In his opening remarks, Dean Rico Ancog emphasized the crucial roles of HEIs in advancing the value of the environment. He highlighted how SESAM has been at the forefront of valuing the environment for the past 25 years by ensuring that this was, and will be, further translated to various modalities of research, extension and public service together with its partner HEIs, government and non-government agencies.

Chancellor Jose V. Camacho Jr., UP President Danilo L. Concepcion and CHED Chairperson J. Prospero de Vera III also delivered inspirational messages. UP President Concepcion expressed his delight as SESAM takes active leadership in championing environmental science, both in theory and practice for the last 25 years. He also wished the summit to be a venue for collective and shared action for the environment. In addition, Chancellor Camacho was hopeful that the gathering of scholars will provide substantial insights to improve and solidify the National Environmental Education Action Plan (NEEAP) for the Philippines (2018-2040). Lastly, CHED Chairperson de Vera posed a challenge to the organizers and attendees to elevate the discussions to actions directed to environmental integrity for the future generation.

In the morning session, plenary talks from Silliman University Professor Emeritus Dr. Ben Malayang III, National Scientist Dr. Lourdes J. Cruz, UP Diliman Chancellor Dr. Fidel Nemenzo and UPLB Vice Chancellor for Research and Extension Dr. Nathaniel Bantayan were presented. 

Dr. Malayang, also a former Dean of SESAM, proposed three strategic shifts the country needs to address the worsening climate crisis. He highlighted the current challenges of communicating environmental science and the urgency for more appropriate ways to convey scientific messages. On the other hand, Dr. Cruz shared how Future Earth Philippines champions inter- and trans-disciplinal approaches. She emphasized the important role of HEIs in achieving Sustainable Development Goals through involvement in action networks and actively alignment of SDGs to education and institutional functions. 

Dr. Nemenzo had an exciting plenary talk on how mathematics is imbedded in nature and how the field offers new opportunities on understanding nature through models and provision of possible solutions to recurring challenges on the environment. Lastly, Dr. Bantayan shared the UPLB research agenda, the UPLB AGORA. He emphasized also on how UPLB will continue to prioritize researches on environment, climate change and disaster risk reduction and management.

Secretary Karl Chua of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) delivered a keynote address emphasizing the need for urgent actions to achieve the targets set in Paris Convention. He further stressed the importance for climate change adaptation and mitigation to be imbedded in the heart of socioeconomic planning. This is where, according to Sec. Chua, environmental education is seen essential—a powerful tool to enhance knowledge and promote environmental awareness.

The round table discussion highlighted how the HEIs paralleled their programs towards achieving medium- and long-term environmental science education agenda and contributing to addressing pressing environmental challenges. Moderated by SESAM Professor Dr. Maria Victoria O. Espaldon, several HEI Presidents and representatives also detailed how their universities coped to the challenges posed by COVID-19 pandemic. In attendance were Dr. Cecilia S. Navassero-Gascon of Bulacan State University, Dr. Cherry I. Ultra of University of Eastern Philippines, Dr. Betty Cernol-McCann of Silliman University and Dr. Marjorie A. Española representing Dr. Ramon M. Docto of Palawan State University.

The focus of the afternoon workshops were the 7-key strategies identified in the National Environmental Education Action Plan 2018-2040, wherein HEI representatives presented their programs parallel to each strategy (institutional arrangements; national and international partnerships; initiative and awards; curriculum; teaching and learning materials; capacity building; and monitoring and evaluation). Strengths and challenges for each key strategy were also identified by the attendees.The online event was attended by more than 1,000 participants, representing 35 HEIs and national and local government agencies. The summit is the first of the series of activities to celebrate the School’s 25th anniversary. (CBGigantone)

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