“In the Philippines, the limited budgetary allocation for Science and Technology points to a “fragmented strategy at bringing about development.”-AGHAM (Advocates of Science and Technology for the People, not the partylist in Congress)
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA — A group of patriotic Filipino scientists questioned the paltry budgetary allotment for science and technology in the Aquino government’s proposed 2014 budget, saying the budget proposal puts to question claims that it would fund “inclusive development” by focusing on poverty alleviation and reducing underemployment.
The proposed public funding for DOST is only 0.53 percent of the total budget for the year 2014. According to AGHAM-Advocates of Science and Technology for the People, this is way too small compared to what the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries normally allocate to their science and technology. For scientific research and development alone, these countries reportedly devote 2.25 percent of their national budget. But in the Philippines, the limited budgetary allocation for Science and Technology points to a “fragmented strategy to bringing about development,” Agham (an organisation of progressive scientists, not the Partylist currently in Congress) said in a statement.
Dr. Giovanni Tapang, Chairman of AGHAM, said science and technology is crucial in responding to the escalating crisis of poverty as it gives a blueprint for genuine national development that can transform prevailing backward agricultural production and mobilize the vast human resources in the countryside.
So far, the DOST (Department of Science and Technology) is the government agency that encourages through forums, conferences and aids to budding scientists an advocacy for promoting science, technology and innovation. In its website, it said these are viable solutions in improving the lives of Filipinos.
But “DOST is one of the agencies that is given a meager budget, which results to poor delivery of science and technology programs for the people,” said Tapang.
Due to the low budget and priority, not only is its delivery weakened, it could also be turned to an ultimately unhelpful or wrong orientation. Based on the statement of AGHAM, it said that the DOST programs are “Divorced from a general program of building domestic industries. It has a program, for example, that is geared towards the testing needs of foreign semiconductor locators rather than the building of our own capabilities in this regard.”
Among the DOST technologies showcased in last month’s Expo Science 2013 was the Advanced Materials Testing Laboratory or ADMATEL, a testing facility for the semiconductor industry. The expo also displayed the Automated Guideway Transit (AGT) system aimed at providing alternative transportation in Metro Manila to ease traffic congestion; the Project NOAH and its components as a vital tool to address climate change; DOST’s Certified Seed Production program for improved agricultural productivity; and some ICT-driven tools to help the government boost the “competitiveness” of the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry.
Like other export-oriented ‘industries’ being supported by the government, the BPO, labor groups have said before, is not about generating jobs via a sound industrialization strategy but by offering cheap wages to foreign subcontractors.
Science and technology research can enhance different areas such as food production, education, nutrition and even disaster risk reduction to help reduce poverty and contribute to development, yet, according to Tapang, these are the areas where there will be budget cuts in personnel. He noted also that while there is a nine percent overall increase in the budget for personnel, eight of the 20 institutes of DOST are bound to suffer budget cuts and these include the ASTI, FNRI and PAG-ASA.
Currently, the DOST targets 68,301 direct or indirect services to the people or at least 42 technical services to every municipality in the country. This, AGHAM said, means that the services being provided by the DOST will hardly answer the current need of providing social and economic benefits for the greater majority of the people.
Recently, PAGASA-DOST employees are clamoring for the release of their incentive pay as provided for by the Magna Carta for Scientists, Engineers, Researchers and other Technology Personnel in Government. DOST Employees reportedly said the funds’ release could have helped save two of their colleagues who were then suffering from a lingering illness.
“Adequate budget for DOST is important if we want to attain national progress and development. Raising the budget for science and technology to almost half the budget being given to the Department of Defense (DOD) would put it at par with other developed countries,” Tapang said.
The PDAF budget could serve as another possible source for DOST budget, said Tapang. He reasoned that if only half of it were to be allocated for DOST, its budget will grow to 1.13 percent of total budget. Tapang said this would have allowed agencies like DOST to fulfill its mandate of leading the scientific and technological efforts benefiting the majority of the Filipinos.”