Filipina engineer-inventor finds opportunity for clean-water invention

The Philippine government’s push for environmental compliance, especially in the country’s top tourist destinations, has sent hotels and hospitality industry scrambling in “greening” their operations.

At the same time, this has proven to be a boon for a Filipino woman inventor whose water-treatment invention is seeing increased demand from top tourism operators in Palawan and Siargao.

Water pollution has long been a problem for Dr. Merlinda Palencia, who, as former dean of the Graduate School of Adamson University, had to endure the filth and odor of wastewater from Estero de Balete, one of Pasig River’s tributaries, which runs through the university’s grounds.

“The estero is a common problem for us because the odor, especially during low tide, is terrible. As a chemical engineer I thought of a way of addressing that problem and help the university neutralize the odor and at the same time improve the quality of water near Estero de Balete,” Palencia said.

From that idea, Palencia initially tested locally available Organo Minerals in a septic tank of Adamson University. Test results showed it could help in improving the quality of wastewater.

Moreover, the invention, a white powder mixture, is 100 percent from naturally occurring materials, or has no chemical-based component.

With hernatural water-treatment technology that promises widespread benefits to flood-prone Metro Manila, Palencia sought protection with the help of the university and the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL).

The IPOPHL and Adamson University launched an Innovation and Technology Support Office (ITSO) in the campus, which helped Palencia develop the patent for the composition and method of the biomineral.

ITSO is a program of IPOPHL to spur innovation performance by putting up patent libraries in areas with high potential for patent and IP-related activities.

IPOPHL partnered with institutions—mostly universities and research organizations—and enabled them to create their own in-house patent libraries to benefit the students and researchers.

“Once you have the patent, no one can just copy [your invention]. The marketing and promotion of the product becomes more ethical because no one can just copy or develop similar products with similar materials. If there’s no patent, it’s difficult to develop and invest because you do all the hard work, and when it gains popularity, someone will just copy it,” Palencia explained.

With the patent for the method and composition filed with IPOPHL, Palencia went about marketing her technology named “Vigormin,” which quickly captured the attention of environment-conscious hotels and resorts.

“Among the business clients are resort and restaurant owners, and hotel management companies in Leyte, Siargao Island, El Nido and Coron, Palawan,” she said.

Among local government units, it was received in the municipalities of San Fernando in La Union, Palompon in Leyte, General Luna and Del Carmen in Siargao.

The application of Vigormin for livestock is also being introduced in Pangasinan,   Tanauan City and  Agoncillo in Batangas.

Two variants of the Vigormin products were developed. Vigormin 732, which improves wastewater by absorbing pollutants and bioremediation. It also manages the pH level of water. Vigormin 550 is for odor control in solid-waste management and livestock and poultry industries.

Vigormin has an affordable price of P200 per kilogram.

Palencia is hoping to make inroads among local government units and households.

“We are trying to educate people that the problem of water pollution is not a problem of the DENR [Department of Environment and Natural Resources] alone but is everyone’s concern. We can protect the limited fresh water resources through collaboration and active participation in the treatment of domestic and industrial wastewater,” Palencia said.

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