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Listen to our scientists, fund our S&T


Editorial Cartoon by Jansen Wong

The Duterte administration is best known for its war on drugs. But another, perhaps equally significant conflict that they have been waging is a war on expertise. The remarks of Benny Antiporda, undersecretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), against UP’s offer to help in the rehabilitation of Manila Bay is just the latest salvo in the government’s crusade against academics, both Filipino and foreign, who call out the government’s failings.

For the past decade, the UP Marine Science Institute has been collaborating with the DENR in assessing the rehabilitation efforts of our marine ecosystems and strengthening our understanding of the Philippine waters. The Php 364-million budget — which is far from what Antiporda claimed to be half a billion pesos in consultation fees — covered the research and development projects of the institute. To call our scientists “bayaran” for receiving the funding they need to conduct research which the nation will benefit from is gross disrespect to our scientists’ profession and their mandate to better protect our ecological systems and promote the development of the country. Even worse, it erodes the public’s trust in the science and technology (S&T) sector, which has historically proven deadly — for example, the Dengvaxia debacle led to a drop in vaccination rates and several measles and polio outbreaks.

Despite criticism of the dolomite dumping in Manila Bay from experts in marine science, public health and infrastructure, Antiporda, who has little to no background to qualify as an environment undersecretary, insisted on pushing through with “rehabilitating” the beach with crushed dolomite despite its danger to our health and marine ecosystem.

Science-based recommendations and solutions must be on the forefront of our policies and decisions. To neglect the calls of our scientists is a disservice to the scientific community and to the nation as a whole, who miss out on the guidance of those who have dedicated their lives to studying their respective fields.

This is not the first time that this administration failed to listen to our scientists. Since day one of our lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, President Rodrigo Duterte has appointed military personnel and unqualified officials at the helm of our pandemic response. In turn of our calls for a medical solution with healthcare workers and scientists leading the way, a militaristic approach prevailed. Its misplaced priorities — the passage of the Anti-Terror Law, ABS-CBN shutdown, the House speakership — added insult to the injury as we breached into the top 20 countries with most cases of COVID-19 at more than 300,000 infections.

Now, whenever the government fails to consider our scientists’ suggestions and welfare, we are bound to pay the price of the government’s ineptitude: scientists leaving the country, almost seven months into lockdown with rising cases per day, people dying, and the nation lagging in S&T development.

It is, then, our duty to listen to our scientists and defend their rights as they are instrumental in the development of our country through scientific research as a guide in policy making. We must further intensify our calls to hold the people in power accountable for failing to uphold their duty to serve our scientists and to serve the people.

Calling our scientists “bayaran” undermines the struggle of every Filipino scientist who perseveres despite having meager resources because they know the value of what they do. For the sake of our tireless scientists who work unceasingly to make science serve the people, as well as for the people that stand to gain from an innovative and well developed (S&T) sector (HINT: That’s pretty much everyone), it is the government’s duty to fund and support our scientists and researchers properly. But that’s not happening anytime soon, so the least they could do is listen.



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The official student publication of the College of Science, UP Diliman.