Remarks of His Excellency, Jose P. Laurel, President of the Republic of the Philippines, at a meeting held in the Bureau of Science, Manila, in connection with the conference convoked to take up the problem of medicinal plants, December 6, 1943:

The idea I have in mind is the study, cultivation, utilization and popularization of our medicinal plants. And as I think of this idea, I cannot help but correlate it with the vital problem of food. I have told my friends that the important thing for us to do is to provide our people with sufficient food to enable them to survive, and to tide them over to better times. But we cannot do that if we do not produce what we need. Because we are now independent, we should exert all efforts to render ourselves self-sufficient in many things. Although Japan will be willing to help us, let us make it a point not to rely upon her for food and other necessities because we are already independent. In connection with the food campaign of our Government, the problems are production, control and distribution. What is true with regard to our food supply is also true with respect to the supply of medicines. We should all work hand in hand in order to achieve the great objective of self-sufficiency in all our needs.

When I was young, I already used patent medicine for my illness, so that when I had a headache all I did was to ask for aspirin. At present, we cannot import medicine from abroad. This is a lamentable situation. I do not think that God in His Infinite Wisdom, who gave us life, would suffer us to die if we could not secure from America or Europe remedies for our diseases and ailments. The very thought is ridiculous. I have, the conviction that we can get our remedies from our own tropic isles and not elsewhere. It is up for us to work out a plan to solve this particular problem now that we are independent. Of course my knowledge in this field is limited, that is why I call upon the scientists of the nation to solve this problem. I know that Drs. Pardo de Tavera, Leon Guerrero, and Joaquin Maranon and other scientists have written books along this line. The herb doctors in the province use local plants in the treatment of the sick. They do not know the scientific properties of these plants, but they do know when they should be used or applied and for what particular sickness.

We have to solve a difficult problem and I call upon the scientists of the Philippines to tackle this important work. What has been done; what could be done; and what should be done, I do not know. It is your task to find the medicinal qualities of our plants so that we may be able to relieve the sufferings of our people. It is for this purpose that I make this appeal to you, gentlemen. At this point, let me say that I am happy to know one of the great scientists from Japan here present. Dr. Shinkishi Hatai. We owe him and his country much for cooperating with us in the building up of our country into a self-sufficient nation.

What is important now is to form an integrating committee, which will be given a certain time within which to submit a workable plan of what is needed and what should be done. The scarcity of medicine has given us this scientific problem which might enable us to discover what Nature has pledged for our country, within our reach and within our means. This committee will be composed of pharmacologists, chemists, physicians and botanists. It will be given fifteen days within which to submit some kind of a plan so that I can ask for the necessary appropriation for this purpose. Upon my return to my office, I shall announce the formation of the integrating committee which will be composed of seven scientists to be presided by Dr. Marañon and with Drs. Valenzuela, De la Paz and A. B. M. Sison, and other scientists as members.

I am certain no Filipino would refuse to undertake this task. There is no glory, no wealth, no power in it. However, the satisfaction that we can reap is the consciousness that we are helping our people so that they may live in, and survive these hard times, and this task can be done effectively by the Filipinos themselves. The paramount objective of ameliorating the misery and anguish of the masses must prevail, not only in the food production campaign, but also in all other activities of the Republic.

Source: Office of the Solicitor General Library