PH takes in 14 science scholars from Cambodia, Myanmar

Officials of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) recently welcomed 12 of the 14 graduate scholars from Myanmar and Cambodia, which the Philippines is sponsoring for advanced science and engineering degrees at the De La Salle University (DLSU) and some campuses of the University of the Philippines (UP) in what it describes as “the truest sense of Asean helping Asean.”

In a meet-and-greet held on January 15 in Taguig City, masters and doctorate students from the two countries who are beneficiaries of a program called “DOST Scholarship Offerings for Asean Researchers at Cambodia – Lao PDR – Myanmar (CLM)” talked about their experiences as scholars in the country before DOST officials led by secretary Fortunato de la Peña; undersecretary for scientific and technological services Dr. Carol Yorobe; assistant secretary for international cooperation Dr. Leah Buendia; Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic, and Natural Resources Research and Development executive director Dr. Reynaldo V. Ebora; and Science Education Institute (SEI) director Josette Biyo. Representatives of the delivering universities were also present.

The scholarship program is exclusively offered to the citizens of the three countries. DOST had earlier committed P50 million to the Asean Committee on Science and Technology for Human Resource Development to implement the program.

SEI led in the coordination with the embassies of CLM, as well as with the delivering institutions. In 2017, SEI together with university representatives visited the three countries to interview applicants in which 14 masters students and four doctorate candidates passed.

About 14 scholars are currently hosted at DLSU, UP Diliman, UP Los Baños, and UP Manila for degrees in the fields of genetics, entomology, environmental science, environmental engineering, agronomy, public health, clinical medicine, electronics and communications engineering, energy engineering, and chemical engineering, among others. Although included in the program, Lao PDR has yet to send scholars for the program.

De la Peña describes the program as “pioneering” for the Philippines, which normally is the one benefitting from scholarships offered by more developed countries.

“I think this is the first time that the Philippines is offering graduate scholarships to Asean partners and we are happy to extend this assistance to Cambodia, Lao PDR and Myanmar,” he said. “Through this effort, we will be able to bridge the gap between Asean member-states in terms of science, technology and innovation.”

Buendia said the Philippine initiative is a big help in raising a critical mass of MS and PhD graduates in CLM, which will ultimately help them address challenges in their areas.

Meanwhile, UPLB Graduate School dean Jose Camacho Jr., said the program is an important move for the Philippines especially in the internationalization of its degree programs. He then urged DOST to further level up its scholarships to maintain the positive trend and recommended sending Filipinos for joint dual degree programs in strategic countries.

In their testimonials, the international scholars thanked DOST and the government for letting them pursue their development in top universities here, which they claim will be helpful for their respective countries.

In closing, De la Peña encouraged the scholars to really give back to their countries and spread the word among their colleagues to invite them to pursue graduate degrees in the Philippines. “We plan to extend this program and we invite you to serve as our promoters in your respective countries so that we can welcome more CLM scholars in the future,” he said.

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