DTI’s AI research hub still unfunded in 2024 nat’l budget, says exec
MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Trade and Industry’s (DTI) Center for Artificial Intelligence Research (CAIR) remains unfunded in the proposed 2024 National Expenditure Program (NEP).
The agency’s Competitiveness and Innovation Group Undersecretary Rafaelita Aldaba revealed this Tuesday, as the Senate committee on finance discussed DTI’s planned P7.909 billion budget for next year.
Aldaba said they have requested funds for DTI’s CAIR for two years. However, she did not state why the Department of Budget and Management disapproved their requests.
DTI is trying to establish CAIR so the Philippines may become an “AI center of excellence in the region and in the near future,” the official explained.
“It’s going to house our data scientists, researchers, and engineers who will be conducting AI research and development,” she said.
CAIR will also be a venue for DTI’s training and capacity building on AI, she added.
Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legara said DTI should not wait for CAIR to be set up before it starts building the capacity of Filipinos concerning AI.
“What I’m saying is that while the infrastructure is not yet set up, we should continue with AI capacity buildings and research,” the senator said in a mix of English and Filipino.
Senator Mark Villar backed Legarda’s position. He also said DTI should ensure that AI benefits the country.
“Other countries are very concerned also about what AI might mean for the labor [industry] and what the implications are. I think it’s important that we learn how we can leverage it to help our industries,” he said.
Aldaba said their partner companies have already provided them with a building in San Pedro, Laguna, where DTI can begin AI-related projects, But, she noted, DTI still cannot “fully utilize that space because [they] don’t have the resources to hire people as well as to procure supercomputers that would be needed.”
DTI Secretary Alfredo Pascual said establishing CAIR is a “way to help Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises adopt AI in their operations.”
He vowed that DTI will continue its research on the impact of AI on employment, like which jobs would be affected by the technology, as well as the “issue on AI ethics.”