Marcos vows support as he asks scientists to ‘stay in the country’

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INNOVATIVE products and services developed by Filipino scientists, researchers, and engineers are on display at the World Trade Center in Pasay City for the 2022 National Science and Technology Week celebration. — DOST

By Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza, Reporter

PRESIDENT Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. on Wednesday asked Filipino scientists and researchers to stay in the country, vowing to support their careers and the sector.

At the same time, the President urged them to partner with the government as it seeks to build a sustainable future.

“I encourage our Filipino scientists, researchers, inventors, and innovators to continue sharing your expertise especially to young people,” Mr. Marcos said in a speech at the celebration of the National Science and Technology Week.

“I urge you to stay in the country as you pursue your career. We will continue to support you and continue to look to you to be active partners of the government,” he added.

Mr. Marcos said the country needs more local experts as it recovers from the pandemic and faces a “new economy.”

“It is a new world, these are new problems we are facing, and therefore we need to find new solutions and innovation is the key, innovation and agility.”

Mr. Marcos underscored the important role of the scientific community in generating new knowledge and devising better strategies to safeguard and advance the well-being of Filipinos.

“I also urge the DoST and all other concerned agencies to allocate resources to institutions that carry out research and development and integrate these in government programs,” he said.

“What Dr. Solidum and I discovered is that there are many research institutions that are doing really remarkable food research, however the problem that we are finding is that research is not directed,” he said, referring to Science and Technology Secretary Renato U. Solidum, Jr.

“Everyone has their own program, has their own projects. It’s not their fault. They’re studying what they are interested in,” Mr. Marcos added.

He said it is the government’s job to “give direction” so that research outputs can be immediately used by farmers, micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, other businesses, and citizens.

“I’ve spoken to some of the researchers and some of those administering research institutes around the country, not only agriculture but all kinds of other R&D (research and development), and they’re willing to take direction from us, from the private sector as to what are the necessary technologies for the Philippines,” he said.

The President said the government will “wholeheartedly” support their R&D initiatives.

STEM SCHOLARSHIPSMr. Marcos also challenged the Department of Science and Technology (DoST) and their partner institutions to continue “to provide more scholarships to Filipino students to develop a bigger pool of scientists, researchers, and  innovators in the country.”

He said he will institute a scholarship program specifically for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) students and “this will not be limited to those who have shown their capabilities, their ability, and how they deserve these scholarships here in the Philippines but to any institution that they are accepted to abroad.”

He also called for improvements in the country’s STEM program, noting that  the Philippines lags behind its Southeast Asian peers in these fields.

“The material I can see is available. It is just a question of us incorporating it into our curricula, it is just up to us to give it an emphasis because in every aspect the STEM subjects have become terribly, terribly important,” he added.

AGHAM, a group of local scientists, earlier said government support for STEM remains low and called for a long-term plan to boost the scientific community.

“The present government should acknowledge that we are suffering from brain drain due to the absence of a national program for the development of the country’s science and technology that could provide opportunities locally for our experts,” AGHAM said last month.

“This is critical as climate change is one of the important things that need to be addressed using science-based action.”

AGHAM said the budgetary allocation for research and development does not meet the recommended UNESCO threshold of 1% of gross domestic product.

Under the proposed 2023 national budget, the DoST will receive P24.06 billion, slightly lower than its allocation of P24.27 billion this year.

Mr. Solidum told the House of Representatives in September that the DoST originally proposed a P44.17-billion budget.

Half or P12.14 billion of the proposed budget for the DoST will be allocated to scientific and technical services, while 25.32% or P6.09 billion will be earmarked for the office of the secretary and regional offices.