By DEE AYROSO
MANILA – As incoming President Rodrigo Duterte draws his administration’s plans for the country, progressive scientists presented “doable” steps that he can take in the next few months to immediately improve people’s lives and make them feel that the “change” has, indeed, come.
The Advocates of Science and Technology for the People (Agham) said the new regime must pursue national industrialization, agricultural modernization and give priority to science and technology to help develop the economy.
The group said the country has remained “agrarian and pre-industrial,” with majority of the population poor and jobless. Meanwhile, science and technology (S&T) workers in the country have been “troubled with weak science and mathematics education, the lack of appropriate domestic job opportunities, inadequate budgetary support in research and development, and unjust wages.”
“Duterte’s previous statements about industrializing the Philippines is a welcome gesture and we look forward to seeing him concretize these plans,” said Feny Cosico, Agham secretary general.
Cosico said that to achieve this, the country would need hundreds of thousands of scientists and engineers that will cater to the technical requisites of industrialization.
The group offered the following steps to Duterte, which they said are “doable in the first few months of his presidency to improve not only the country’s S&T capacity, but also the people’s living conditions.”
1. Craft a comprehensive plan on the development science and technology geared towards national industrialization and agricultural modernization.
2. Allocate at least one percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to the national research and development budget. At present, Agham said only 0.1 percent of the GDP is allocated to S&T.
3. End the contractualization of S&T workers in government agencies and increase their minimum salaries to be at par with the monthly decent living wage of P 32,580 ($700).
4. Review onerous contract deals such as Light Rail Manila Corporation’s privatization of the Light Rail Transit (LRT) which put the people and the government in disadvantageous position. Stop the privatization of LRT2 and Philippine National Railways (PNR). Buy out private corporations’ interest in Metro Rail Transit (MRT) and LRT 1. Simultaneously give immediate relief to mass transport commuter by rolling back train and bus fares.
5. Ensure government control and national sovereignty over our power industry. Take over the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines to recover the 40-percent stake of the State Grid of China controls in its operation and management.
6. Stop the privatization of the remaining power assets of the government such as Agus-Pulangi Hydroelectric Dam in Mindanao.
7. Increase internet speed and remove data cap of telecommunication companies’ ‘unlimited’ data. Impose higher penalties to non-compliant telcos. Immediately invest in the establishment of ‘backbone’ infrastructure of the ICT industry.
8. Stop the privatization of water districts and electric cooperatives.
9. Ban all agro-chemicals and genetically modified products that were proven to have environmental and socio-economic impacts particularly to the farmers.
10. Impose a moratorium on all Public-Private Partnership (PPP) projects to review and cancel provisions that are inimical to the Filipino people.
11. Hold government officials such as Transport and Communications Secretary Jun Abaya, former secretary Mar Roxas and Budget Secretary Butch Abad accountable for corruption and milking out people’s money through the privatization of public utilities.
12. Resolve the killings of all S&T workers who were killed during the Aquino regime and stop the harassments of scientist activists. The group Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environmentalists counted 56 environmentalists killed under the Aquino regime, many of whom were people’s scientists.