The Senate on Monday, March 12, approved on third and final reading a measure seeking to amend Republic Act No. 8439, or the “Magna Carta for Scientists, Engineers, Researchers and other Science and Technology Personnel in the Government Act,” to expand state support for Filipino science workers, and empower their efforts towards the country’s development.
Senate Bill No. 1534, was sponsored by Sen. Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV, chair of the Senate Committee on Science and Technology, and passed with 15 affirmative votes, zero negative votes, and no abstentions.
“It is high time that we deliberately retain and empower our Filipino scientists, engineers, researchers, and other science and technology practitioners so we may harness the benefits of S&T to further our national agenda,” Aquino said.
The bill was co-sponsored by Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III and Senator Loren Legarda, and was co-authored with Senators Edgardo “Sonny” Angara, Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri, and Sherwin Gatchalian.
According to Aquino, the end goal of the bill was to “create and encourage more and more scientific minds in the Philippines dedicated to nation-building.”
If signed into law, it would remove the limits currently imposed on the amount of additional honoraria science and technology personnel can receive from externally funded grants.
In addition, the bill would expedite access of government science and technology personnel not employed by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) to the said benefits offered by RA 8349- “upon certification of the head of their agency that they are involved in research and development or other scientific and technological activities.”
Another key provision of the bill, Aquino said, is that it would allow for the extended employment of science and technology personnel due for compulsory retirement for a period of up to five years if they are involved in priority research and development programs of the DOST “to encourage opportunities for continued research and mentorship.”
The bill noted that services rendered by science workers during such period of extension “shall be credited as part of government service, and entitles them to leave credits and other benefits.”
“We endeavored to create a law that will empower our Filipinos to enter the field of science and technology, and work on the development of our country,” he said.
Aquino said that the measure is meant to help solve the low number of science and technology personnel working in the country, and pointed out that there are only 189 scientists per one million Filipinos.
“Institutionalized support for scientists, engineers, researchers, and science and technology personnel in the Philippines is long overdue,” he said.
“I am hopeful that with more Filipino scientists, researchers and engineers, we can finally achieve prosperity for every Filipino,” he concluded. — Yvonne Almirañez