MANILA, Philippines -- Unless the government works to develop local industries and weans itself from dependence on foreign investments, no increase in the budget of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) will stop Filipino scientists from seeking greener pastures abroad, activist-scientists said Friday.
A report said the government has increased the budget of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) this year to P3.6 billion from P2.7 billion to finance more research development and scholarships for scientists.
Aside from scholarships and research and development, the report quoted Undersecretary Fortunato de la Peña as saying the money will be used to fund small-scale enterprises and the upgrading of technological facilities of science institutions even as he admitted the DOST?s budget had remained ?stagnant? for a long time.
De la Peña was also quoted as acknowledging ?the unabated exodus of Filipino scientists and science scholars.?
Reacting to the report, the Samahan ng Nagtataguyod ng Agham at Teknolohiya para sa Sambayanan (Advocates of Science and Technology for the People or Agham) said: "Even with the nominal increase of around P839 million in the budget slated for science and technology in 2007, the Philippines would still be facing a brain drain because it has no domestic industries to absorb the highly skilled scholars and engineers it can produce.?
"We cannot just increase the number of our [science] scholars without ensuring that there are local industries that will absorb them,? Agham chairman Dr. Giovanni Tapang said in the statement.
Highlighting the problem, Tapang, in a separate emailed reply to follow-up questions, cited Commission on Higher Education (CHED) statistics showing 8,363 engineers and 1,063 computer/ICT (Information and Communication Technology) professionals migrated in 1998.
He also said 11,169 engineers left the country in 2006, quoting data from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, while more than 8,097 IT (information technology)-related workers have gone overseas since 1992.
While the figures ?might seems small? compared to the millions of overseas Filipino workers, Tapang pointed out that, ?in 2002, the number of local scientists and engineers, engaged in research and development in the country [was] only 6,803, a significant decrease of 39.3 percent from the 1996 level.?
He also cited reports on the exodus of meteorologists from the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration.
Aside from migration, Tapang said scientists and engineers unable to find jobs suited to their skills also opt to ?work outside of their training? while ?there is the alarming trend of highly trained science graduates who opt not to practice their profession but instead become call center agents or medical/technical transcriptionists.?
Tapang also noted that the increased DOST budget remained ?way below? the two percent of a country?s GDP required by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
?The P3.7 billion for the S&T [science and technology] budget is less than one-tenth of a percent (0.07%) of the GDP of the Philippines,? Tapang said in a separate e-mailed reply to follow-up questions.
Still, Tapang said, "even if you increase the DOST budget and produce a lot of research output, if the only companies that will be able to use them are foreign-owned and controlled, there will be no direct benefit for the Filipino people from our scientists' discoveries."
"One crucial factor that keeps our science and technology stunted is our dependence on imported goods and the export orientation of our industries which does not leave a place for a highly trained scientist to flourish," he said.
He cited mining, which the government has aggressively been promoting to foreign investors, and "where most of the activities involve only extractive activities for export with very little processing.?
?If we had local downstream industries to process these ores then we would be able to add more value to our products and use it to build structures for our nation's benefit," Tapang said.