PH seeks to meet UN benchmark with more scientists in 10 years

By Edd K. Usman

ILOILO CITY — The Philippines will be able to produce and develop more scientists, engineers, and researchers in the next ten years, allowing it to meet a United Nations development metric.

In a decade, the country is expected to have 380 scientists, engineers, and researchers for every one million persons, the suggested benchmark of the United Nations Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco), a science and technology official said.

Department of Science and Technology (DOST) VI Regional Director Rowen Gelonga; DOST Assistant Secretary Emmanuel Galvez; Technology Application and Promotion Institute (TAPI) Director Edgar Garcia; and Science and Technology Information Institute (STII) Executive Director Richard Burgoz. (EKU)

Photo shows (from right) DOST VI regional director Rowen Gelonga; DOST assistant secretary Emmanuel Galvez; TAPI director Edgar Garcia; and STII executive director Richard Burgos are shown attending a briefing in Iloilo

Given the kind of investment the DOST and the government is extending to promote Masters and PhDs in science and engineering, “we will hit the mark in ten years,” Richard Burgos, executive director of Science and Technology Information Institute (DOST-STII), said.

Currently, the ratio is at 270 scientists per one million Filipinos, Burgos said during the Regional Science and Technology Week (RSTW) organized by Department of Science and Technology (DOST) VI in Iloilo City from August 29 to 31.

For his part, Rowen R. Gelonga, DOST VI regional director, said “that in order for a country to really attain economic development you need at less 380 researchers per million population.”

“That is why the DOST is really trying to generate more resources to come up with more and more S&T scholarships at different levels: high school, undergraduate, Masters, and PhDs,” Gelonga said during the same event.

Based on United Nations figures, Indonesia has 89 researchers per a million inhabitants (69 percent male, 31 percent female); Malaysia, 2,017 researchers (51 percent male, 49 percent female); Thailand, 973 researchers (47 percent male, 53 percent female); Vietnam, 674 researchers (56 percent male. 44 percent female); and Brunei, 286 researchers (59 percent male, 41 percent female).

Meanwhile, both also emphasized the need of the country to increase spending for research and development (R&D) as a share of its gross domestic product (GDP), if only to bring it closer to levels spent by its neighbors.

“Ideally, a country should be spending at least 1 percent of its GDP for R&D,” Gelonga said, citing Unesco parameteers.

The Philippines is spending only somewhere around 0.13 percent, he added, far below than its neighbors in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) are spending.

“This is much lower than Malaysia, which is spending somewhere around 2.2 percent of GDP for R&D. Thailand is spending around 0.5 percent,” said Gelonga.

For its part, South Korea is using around four percent of its GDP for R&D spending.

“We still need to further increase our investments both in the government and the private sector so that we can really attain critical investments when it comes to S&T (science and technology) and R&D, in particular,” the official explained in a press conference. “Without this investment in R&D and investments in S&T our private sector will never attain a level of competitiveness in the market.”

Based on current estimates, Indonesia’s R&D expenditure vis-a-vis its GDP is 0.1 percent; Lao, 0.4 percent; and Vietnam, 0.4 percent. Brunei is at 0 percent.

Spending on R&D as percentage of GDP is “the total expenditure (current and capital) on R&D carried out by all resident companies, research institutes, university and government laboratories, etc., in a country,” the website of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development said.

Currently, the focus of the DOST’s R&D agenda is competitiveness, acknowledging meanwhile that “maybe later we can spend resources for basic R&D.”

During the event, a modified Electric Junction Box won on August 31 at the RSTW the Outstanding Utility Model (UM).

Winners in the other categories are: Multi-purpose Food Smoker and Cooker, Likha Award (Creative Research); Integrated Fall Detector Device and System, Sibol Award (Creative Research for College); and Anti-diabetic and Anti-oxidant Tea from Garcinia binucao (Batuan) Leaf and Fruit, Sibol Award (Creative Research for High School).

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