Signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (PCHRD) of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), the Sentrong Katutubong Yaman (Sekaya) is tapping into the country’s rich biodiversity to develop natural medicinal products with the help of science and technology (S&T).
The agreement would enhance research and development (R&D) on health, especially in medicinal plants by the affiliate of United Laboratories, Inc. (Unilab).
“Indigenous communities and farmers, who are among the poorest in the country, have a lot to gain from the development of plant-based natural products in terms of livelihood and health benefits,” said Sekaya executive director Eliseo Banaynal.
The signing was held during the inauguration of the Sekaya Research and Development plant at the Unilab Pharma Campus in Mamplasan, Laguna. The facility is envisioned to become a collaborative R&D center for local medicinal plants and as a platform to develop natural products based on science to help indigenous communities and small farmers benefit from the country’s rich resources.
“The Philippines’ rich biodiversity should be protected at all cost, at the same time we should make sure that benefits from it will redound to the Filipinos. Unilab, through Sekaya with the help of science and technology, will support communities in cultivating and developing practical applications for the country’s natural resources that will be beneficial to them,” said Unilab senior vice president Joey Ochave.
For the DOST’s part, PCHRD Executive Director Dr. Jaime Montoya underscored the government’s call for continuous development of the country’s biodiversity for health-related discoveries, particularly plant-based medicines. DOST, through PCHRD, has been at the forefront of the government’s efforts to develop herbal medicines to maximize the potential of medicinal plants which abound all over the country.
“We could not have found a better partner than Unilab in this collaborative R&D initiative. The company has always been guided by its commitment in supporting initiatives and programs that would help Filipinos live healthier lives—most especially those who belong to the base of the pyramid,” added Montoya.
Globally, there is renewed interest and demand for herbal medicines in recent years. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that eight out of 10 people worldwide use herbal medicines.
Experts have identified over 1,500 indigenous medicinal plants in the Philippines, making the country one of the 17 megadiverse countries in the world or the world’s top biodiversity-rich countries, which host two-thirds of the Earth’s biodiversity and contain about 70- to 80-percent of the world’s plant and animal species. The country ranks fifth in terms of number of plant species and home to five-percent of the world’s plants (about 10,000 to 13,000 species of plants described and recorded.
Environment protection and stewardship is a priority under the MoU. It cites that Sekaya and PCHRD “commit to work together as stewards of Philippine biodiversity, particularly in the development of plant-based natural products.”
Agricultural research points out that lack of access to modern technology and technical expertise are among the barriers that prevent Filipino farmers from being competitive and from increasing their income. Through the Sekaya facility, small farmers can tap the expertise of scientists and gain access to innovative technologies and processes.