#OPINION | Mga Baliw na Baliw sa Research: The State of Science Institutes in the Philippines

by Jersey Gutierrez

“A Side of the Story.” Artwork by Jersey Gutierrez

“It’s about time to strengthen the collaboration between government and scientists,” said Dr. Richard Lemence, an assistant professor at UP-Diliman at the 2nd ASEAN Science Diplomat Assembly. The assembly aims to train scientists and engineers for scientific language communication.

The funds given to a science institution play a crucial role for Filipino scientists since it paves the way for our scientists to continue developing their research in the country. It is a tangible and feasible way of showing support to our people.

However, the number of locals that take flight to different countries for their research to be supported is a sign that the government’s budget allocation isn’t enough. According to Bam Aquino, we lack 19,000 scientists to be a significant force in research and development. Allocating more funds should give our people more opportunities to address not only local demands but maybe even global problems.

UP Mindanao Professor Annabelle U. Novero conducted a research on coconuts that helped coconut farmers in Davao. She stated that if more research facilities were available, more provinces could benefit from what she did.

The younger generation can start in the littlest ways possible.

Maria Isabel Layson, a 16 year old student, discovered a potential diabetes cure. “I didn’t join the competition for fame. I joined this research competition because I wanted to address the problem of diabetes and how my research of aratiles could help solve that,” she said.

A group of Grade 11 students from PSHS — Western Visayas Campus known as team Voltage 5 consists of Kirsten Dianne Delmo, Nico Andrei Serrato, Joecile Faith Monana, Frelean Faith Engallado, and Raphael Francis Dequilla. They created the “S-Light”, a device that converts noise into electricity and won a Silver award at the Young Inventors Challenge 2019 in Malaysia.

The youth proves that research has no limits. No matter what age, it is possible to explore new horizons. The simplest ideas can transform into something that would benefit the community and advance our technology.

Not everyone is given the opportunity.

Despite the lack of funding, Republic Act №7459 or what is also known as “Investors and Invention Incentives Act of the Philippines” has existed since 1992. It promises cash rewards, tax incentives and exemptions, assistance funds, and invention guarantee funds.

Another law is the Republic Act №11035, otherwise known as the “Balik Scientist Act”, was also created in 2017 to provide incentives to the Filipinos that return and share their acquired expertise. Some benefits include the exemption of paying taxes on the equipments and materials obtained.

Although the law gives support to Filipino scientists, it recognizes them for their output instead of supporting them throughout the process. An application and screening process takes part in this, and that means not everyone has the opportunity to avail the incentives. This proves that Filipinos aren’t acknowledged enough for the sacrifices and hardships they go through.

The public servants’ statement on research.

“Parang lahat ng inyong budget puro research? Baliw na baliw kayo sa research. Aanhin ‘nyo ba ‘yung research?” said Cynthia Villar, our most voted senator during the recent 2019 election. As a political leader, she should know that research is about developing or advancing our technology for the betterment of our country and not hinder its progress.

Back in 2013, she stated that supporting research and development is the key to solving poverty, “We need to invest in research and development [so] we can increase the productivity of agriculture and boost job creation in the industry through science and technology.”

6 years is all it took for her perspective to change. Her family’s company Vista Land is well known for being the biggest land developer in the country but at the same time known as land grabbers that avoid agricultural reform.

Prior to this, a controversy occurred last January 2018 wherein the Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. stated that no Filipino can do scientific research in the Philippine Rise. This was a slap in the face for locals that had the courage to leave the country and continue their research despite the lack of funding or even support from our government.

If the people that set foot in the government can’t see why research is essential, how do we expect the rest of the country to understand its importance?

Looking at the bigger problem.

670.3 billion out of 4.1 trillion pesos of our funds go to education, yet it remains to be the root of most of our problems. Scientific culture should be exposed to the students at an early age so that more time is given to develop their ideas and process their thoughts.

The country’s education system leans towards producing science-based students yet it fails to provide the essentials for this since we lack facilities to be able to carry out these studies. All they can provide is exposure and acknowledgment which will never be enough to develop the study.

“Many of our research scholarship slots are not availed of anymore. We don’t know what is happening to younger generations, but they no longer have the ambition to pursue a doctoral degree,” the former Science & Technology secretary, William Padolina explained in 2019.

People choose not to take STEM since students nowadays think long-term. They are aware that if they decide to stay in the Philippines and pursue it, it will be difficult to excel or develop in that area due to the lack of facilities and opportunities available.

More research facilities can improve different sectors of the country since a bigger budget gives a greater chance of addressing global issues. The budget increases rapidly yet it remains insufficient. Appropriate funding is vital for research facilities in order to carry out its necessities.

The availability of research funds is lacking, so why not make different opportunities open to aid these scientists? Shouldering their acquired budget isn’t the only way to show them support. Sure, over the years the budget allocated for this is increasing, yet it is never enough.

Despite being the institution with the most agencies, DOST’s budget for 2020 was cut by 79.85 million pesos or 0.99% of the previous year. This was approved by the Department of Budget and Management, which means it was supposedly funded reasonably and evaluated carefully. Although, it is alarming since a noticeably smaller amount compared to that of 2019’s budget of 20.26 billion pesos.

The money that had been allocated for the past few years was already lacking. What more for the years to come? How can we ensure that aid will still be provided to those in need? If our own government can’t help its own scientists, why expect foreigners to be the one to help them?

The Philippines stands as 67th out of 138 countries in the world leaderboard for research and development spending, yet it is not enough to help our people.

Even though all the proposed budget allocations were properly funded, it was still deemed to be lacking. Is money actually the real problem here, or is it the lack of support from our political leaders?

The future of the nation is in our hands. We should be prepared to select better leaders when our time comes. As Pisay students, as skolars ng bayan, we must use our privilege to help the country by giving back what we’ve learned in order to serve it and its people. If we do not do anything to save our country, then who will?

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The Science Scholar

The Science Scholar

The official English publication of the Philippine Science High School–Main Campus. Views are representative of the entire paper.