The Balik Scientist Act of 2018 (Republic Act 11035), signed by President Rodrigo Duterte recently, is expected to dramatically reverse the country’s brain-drain crisis and induce Filipino experts abroad to come home and avail of the incentives, benefits, and privileges it offers.
“Filipinos are basically family oriented. Many of them venture overseas for better remunerations to provide for their families,” Albay Second District Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda said.
“Wherever they may be, they long to come home to savor and enjoy the emotional security of close family ties. Family cohesiveness is an anchor value among them and forms a vital part of their culture and traditions,” he added.
Salceda, principal author of RA 11035 in Congress, said the new law serves this Filipino cultural orientation. Better still, beyond the package of benefits it offers to returning expatriate experts, the prospect of working in their own country near their families, and where cost of living is low, is an enticing alternative.
Administered by the Department of Science and Technology, RA 11035 provides motivations for Filipino scientists and experts abroad, armed with latest know-how, to flock back home and trigger the inflow of needed modern technologies to help speed up Philippine development.
Returning Filipino scientists and technology experts are expected to undertake mentorship, training, lectures, research, and development while in their country.
Salceda said under RA 11035, Balik Scientists will enjoy benefits and incentives like exemption from licensing or permit requirements of the Professional Regulation Commission; accident and medical insurance; exemption from renouncing their oath of allegiance to their adopted country, if any; tax and duty exemption in donation of equipment and materials to DoST; tax and duty exemption on imported professional equipment and other materials; and reimbursement of excess baggage imposts.
They can also participate in Grants-in-Aid research and development projects of DoST, enjoy one round-trip airfare originating from a foreign country to the Philippines, subsidized visa applications, and tax exempt daily allowance. DoST can also organize annual conventions of Filipino scientists to highlight successes of explorations and research.
Long-term returning scientists, Salceda said, could also get special relocation benefits, special non-immigrant visas; tax exemption for one vehicle, personal and housing effects, and professional equipment; admission assistance to schools for their minor children; job assistance for their spouse; monthly housing allowance; and funding for establishment and development of facility or laboratory.
Priority areas of concerns of the Balik Scientists Program (BSP) include space technology, artificial intelligence, biomedical engineering, energy, agriculture and food, biotechnology, information and communications technology, cyber security, pharmaceutical, nanotechnology, and disaster mitigation and management.
Salceda noted that the exodus of the best Filipino minds overseas has stunted the country’s scientific environment. The new law aims to revive and institutionalize the previous Balik Scientist Program which bore modest but remarkable successes, even as they fell short of inducing Pinoy scientists, technology experts, and researchers to come home for good.
Established under PD 819 in 1975 the BSP had served as a wakeup call for Filipino researchers and technologists employed abroad, that they now stand to be compensated well at home where they can share their expertise with their compatriots.
The program was revived and strengthened in 1993 through Executive Order No. 130 in recognition of its “remarkable outcomes and the presence of many highly trained overseas professionals who have the expertise in the priority areas of agriculture, energy and nutrition development.”
Salceda said RA 11035 addresses past BSP failures and provides globally competitive benefits for returning overseas Filipino experts should they “come home, share their expertise, and speed up the country’s development” and help establish a strong science and technology community.
RA 11035 is linked to another Salceda bill pending in Congress -- the Science for Change Program or ‘Science for the People’ -- which aims to accelerate investments in Science and Technology in the country and boost scientific innovations and inventions, research, and development towards global competitiveness.