‘Don’t force scientists into a vow of poverty’

‘How will we develop our science and technology if the people in this sector are not being given opportunities to develop?’

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MANILA — Narod Eco, a researcher with the University of the Philippines’ National Institute of Geological Sciences (UP-NIGS), had worked under Project Noah, which was implemented to improve the government’s early warning systems. He saw that if the government wants to, it can fund good projects. But he also realized that even in such projects, “the people are not being prioritized.”

picture, Narod Eco
Narod Eco of UP-NIGS at AGHAM’s 2016 S & T electoral agenda

At the 2016 forum on S & T electoral agenda, Eco said “A lot of our young scientists and researchers are employed by the government on a contractual basis, with no benefits or job security. Some of our researchers even do their mapping on airplanes without any hazard pay.” It was only lately that some of them started having an insurance.

Under President Aquino, the science and technology workers with the government were ones of the first who bore the brunt of his administration’s neglect of the sector. He famously berated publicly some employees of the government’s weather forecasting office. His anti-insurgency drive when he was barely five months in office mistakenly killed a renowned Filipino botanist doing field work. A couple of years later, soldiers declared in a press conference that they “captured” a rebel guerilla and jailed him for a year. The so-called guerilla turned out to be a scientist also doing fieldwork to improve the disaster rehabilitation of those affected by Typhoon Pablo.

“The government has to make scientists and technology workers feel they can have a career in science,” Eco said at AGHAM’s forum on 2016 science and technology agenda.

That is the opposite of what is happening now, based on his short sharing at the forum. He reiterated how today’s government offices would tell its employees: “There is no employer-employee relationship. No benefits. No bonus, no leave.”

In this employment setup, their work as scientists and researchers are not being counted as government service, Eco lamented.

“But if government leaders want to prioritize the people, they can work on it. They can make available certain resources and capacities,” Eco said.

Agham picture
[From left to right] Narod Eco of UP-NIGS, Dr. Kelvin Rodolfo of Manila Observatory, and JM Ayuste of Agham Youth raise with AGHAM the need for candidates to define platform in science and technology

He added that scientists and researchers shouldn’t be forced to live out a vow of poverty, and that their jobs should receive its proper importance.

“The government should put an end to contractualization of employees, including scientists. How will we develop our science and technology if they are not being given opportunities to develop?” Eco asked.

Without change in the government’s treatment of the country’s S & T sector, the combined effects of contractualization and low wages are reportedly driving some of them to change career or leave the country. (https://www.bulatlat.com)

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