We, members of AGHAM – Advocates of Science and Technology for the People lament the renewed reduction in the budget of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), amid reports of an approved budget of P19.93B for the Department. This amount is P79.85 million lower than DOST’s P20.26 billion budget for 2019, and P25 million less than its submitted budget proposal of P20.18 billion. This is also the second year in a row that the DOST budget has been reduced, from a high of P21.2 billion in 2018.
Without much-needed government support, both financially and in terms of political will and vision, we will be unable to utilize our own rich natural resources for national industrial growth and the welfare of all Filipinos. We need more public spending for S&T to finance much-needed STEM training and education, manpower development, infrastructure, and research and development. At the same time, we need political will and vision to ensure that whatever benefits we reap from our locally developed S&T will redound to even the most marginalized of Filipinos.
The importance that the government gives to DOST is reflected when its budget is compared to the budgets of the top five departments receiving 1.83 trillion pesos. The DOST budget, around 4.9% of the 4.1 trillion peso 2020 budget, is still well below the 1% of GDP UNESCO standard for R&D expenditures for developing countries.
Even if there is enough research funds to go by, the government procurement process is tedious, complicated, and slow, which causes unnecessary delays in R&D initiatives. Addressing this common frustration among public S&T professionals will help increase research productivity and innovation.
Ultimately, any improvement in the S&T sector – be it financial or otherwise – will be to naught without a national economic blueprint that prioritizes the development of homegrown Filipino industries and opens up our agriculture sector to genuine reform and modernization.
Local science and technology will be harnessed best under a system where premium is given to our country’s food producers by addressing their problem of land so that they can have the capacity to drastically improve their farming methods and maximize agricultural productivity.
Building local industrial capacity that completes production from raw resource extraction to commodity production, more incentives for local over foreign entrepreneurs and manufactures and environmental production will ensure that our scientists will be busy coming up with practical solutions to problems being posed by nation building.
That is why greater state support for local S&T is not merely a matter of budgetary resources. A greater budget will do wonders for the sector, but it can only do so much without a system that harnesses our local S&T for genuine development for all.