News - Dr. Mercedes B. Concepcion Named as National Scientist

Through Proclamation No. 1980 issued by Malacañang on January 14, 2010, Academician Mercedes B. Concepcion was declared National Scientist for her outstanding contributions in the field of demography.  This is the highest honor which the Philippine Government can bestow to a Filipino scientist for his/her outstanding contributions to science and technology.  Her outstanding accomplishments covered the study of population composition and trends and their implications for social and economic development, the growth of urbanization, the situation of the elderly and of employment that resulted in the formulation of population policies here and abroad.

Whenever the subject of demography comes up, the name of Mercedes B. Concepcion is usually associated with it.  The woman who was honored as the first Filipino demographer by the Philippine American Foundation in 2002 has racked up many “firsts” in her distinguished career.  She was the first Filipino staff member of the United Nations Statistical Traning Centre set up at the University of the Philippines (UP) in 1955, the first Director of the newly established Population Institute at the UP in 1965, the first and sole Philippine Representative to the United Nations Population Commission in 1967, the first Woman to chair this UN Population Commission from 1969 to 1977, and the first Asian woman to be elected President of the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population in 1981-1985.

The Vatican recognized Dr. Concepcion’s expertise when it invited her to be one of the two Asian members of the special committee for studies on problems of population and birth control (popularly known as the Birth Control Commission) in November 1964 which led to the promulgation of the famous encyclical Humanae Vitae in 1968. She was also selected by the United Nations Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East (now the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific) to be a member and later chairperson of the Preparatory Committees for the Asian Population Conferences of 1963, 1972, 1984 and 1994.

Dr. Concepcion, together with the late Acting UP President Enrique T. Virata and Professor Philip M. Hauser of the University of Chicago, worked for the establishment of the UP Population Institute (UPPI) in 1964 with funding assistance from the Ford Foundation. This Institute served as the secretariat of the ad hoc Population Commission that was instrumental in the enactment of the Population Act of 1971 that provided for a national population policy and a family planning program.  Through the years, the UPPI has earned a reputation as a prime research and training center on population-related fields.

In 1986, Dr. Concepcion chaired the Committee to Review the Philippine Statistical System which led to the reorganization of the country’s statistical offices and to the establishment of the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB). Twenty years later, she was again appointed to the Committee to Review the Philippine Statistical System.

Her research efforts have gained recognition not only locally but also internationally.  Under her leadership, the Population Institute collaborated with its counterpart institutions in Southeast Asia to undertake joint research projects on population and family planning.  She headed the Organization of Demographic Associates (ODA) composed of leading population institutes in Asia.  The ODA planned and implemented research studies on migration, urbanization, the elderly and population and development issues in the late 1970s and early 1980s.  The research results were used by the regions’s policy makers and programme managers as guides to effective population and programme management.  She was also tapped by the World Health Organization in the eighties to chair the Steering Committee on the Social and Psychological Determinants of Fertility Regulation, a committee that reviewed research and action programme proposals for funding.

Dr. Concepcion obtained her B.Sc. degree in chemistry from the UP in 1951.  A recipient of a Colombo Plan fellowship, she pursued studies in Biostatistics at the School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine of the University of Sydney in Australia in 1953-54.  In 1958 she garnered a Population Council fellowship to take up studies in Sociology/Demography at the University of Chicago where she obtained a Ph.D. in 1963.  She has authored innumerable publications and served scores of consultancies with the United Nations Population Fund, the UN Development Fund, the UN Statistical Office, the World Health Organization, the UN Training and Research Institute for the Advancement of Women and the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific.

Dr. Concepcion has been honored by several institutions and organizations.  In 1970, the Ateneo de Manila University invested her with a Doctor of Humane Letters (honoris causa) and two years later, she received the Rafael Salas Population and Development Award.  The UP named her one of its University Professor in 1988. For her invaluable contributions at regional, national and international levels in the field of demography, the United Nations conferred on her its 2005 UN Population Award while the UP Alumni Association voted to give her the Distinguished Alumna Award in 2006.

In 1992, Dr. Concepcion was elected as Academician by the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST).  In May 2009, the NAST membership endorsed Academician Concepcion to President Gloria M. Arroyo for the Order of National Scientist.

At present, National Scientist Concepcion continues to be busy with the Commission on Population where she sits as one of its Board members, chairs the NSCB Technical Committee on Population and Housing Statistics, is the Vice-President of the Executive Council of the NAST, serves as Vice-President of the Pangarap Foundation for Street Children, and Trustee of the Philippine Center for Population and Development. 

(Source: Program, Conferment Ceremonies, 15 Feb 2010, 11AM, Rizal Hall, Malacañang, Manila)