The chairman of the House of Representatives’ committee on ways and means has called for more funding for science research and development.
Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda, the panel chairman, who defended the measure during its approval at the House committee on appropriations, said: “The Science for Change Act is an opportunity to realize the innate potential of our country and our people through scientific and technological development, which has become the principal drive of global wealth.”
“I am proud to say that the Economic Development Cluster of the Duterte Cabinet, and the Department of Science and Technology is behind this representation in supporting this critical measure,” Salceda added.
Explaining the origins of the Science for Change proposal. Salceda said that “When I returned to Congress in 2016, and in preparation for my policy paper titled “Dutertenomics,” I convened National Scientists, members of the academe, and leading officials of the DOST to craft a national framework for scientific development.”
Salceda also expressed alarm over the data from the World Bank which showed that, out of 90 major countries, the Philippines could only beat Algeria and Sudan for R&D spending per capita. In terms of share of GDP. “We beat only Algeria, Iran, and Indonesia,” Salceda added.
Salceda also asked the budget committee to consider increasing funding for science research in the 2022 national budget.
“In 2017, we set an initial funding of P21 billion for Science for Change. We estimated that, if we were to double R&D spending every year, it would be a good starting point. Within five years, we can reach the 1% of GDP prescribed by the UNESCO as the minimum R&D investment for a country to be competitive,” Salceda said.
“2021 GAA funding for R&D is at around P18 billion, still below that starting point. But if we start now, the science for change formula can still help us meet the threshold by 2025. The Science for Change bill outlines how our R&D investments will be spent to improve every facet of the economy and society,” Salceda added.
Salceda requested that at least P50 billion be committed to research and development across the agencies in 2022.
In response, the Budget Department assured Salceda that the 2022 National Expenditure Plan (NEP) includes an 18% increase in the Research and Development budget of the government. In addition, the capitation for research institutions such as the Virology Institute of the Philippines is also included in the 2022 NEP.
“I am in receipt of a note from the DOST that indicates that Research and Development, across agencies, will account for a mere 0.4% of the national budget. I remind my colleagues and the Executive Branch that our problems next year all demand robust scientific investment. The pandemic, continuing climate issues, cybersecurity during the elections, among others, require a strongly funded scientific community. I hope we can consider increasing our public investments in research in the 2022 GAA,” Salceda said.
“While I understand our revenue constraints better than anybody in Congress, I hope that the Committee on Appropriations will at least approve an increase in our current R&D spending and commit the country to greater R&D funding in the future. The wealth of nations is now knowledge driven. The solutions to our most life-threatening problems are knowledge driven. We must invest in R&D not only so that we may grow, but so that we may survive,” Salceda stressed.