DOST expects more ‘Balik Scientists’ with expanded benefits

By Mary Jane P. Tadili

To entice more Filipino S&T experts who are based abroad, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) is rolling out the expanded benefits and incentives provided under its “Balik Scientist” program.

DOST secretary Fortunato de la Pena

With the newly crafted Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of RA 11035 or the Balik Scientist Act, which facilitates faster approval and removes some government restrictions on taxes and work engagements of Balik Scientists, the DOST is hopeful that many will answer the call.

Republic Act No. 11035 or the Balik Scientist Act was signed into law on June 15, 2018. The law allows the participation of science, technology or innovation (STI) experts of Filipino descent in research and development initiatives for the country. The law provides bigger and more attractive incentives and benefits to scientists, inventors, and researchers who are based abroad and have distinguished themselves in the fields of S&T.

Under the law, the DOST is mandated to administer the program and to craft its IRR for efficient implementation. The IRR may include a one-time incentive bonus and such additional incentives, benefits, and privileges that may be necessary to attract the individual “Balik Scientist” to come and help in the scientific and technological advancement of the country.

DOST undersecretary for S&T services Carol M. Yorobe said the IRR has been crafted with the end in view to remove some bureaucratic restrictions or limitations in order to facilitate faster approval and accommodation of Balik Scientists in consonance with their term of engagement.

Yorobe said that in the past, because of too many government regulations to be complied with and which took so long to be acted upon, the time specified by the Balik Scientists to come to country lapsed before they can get in the country.

“We wanted to address the faster facilitation of the stay and engagement of our Balik Scientists without them having to go through so many paper works just to help us in our S&T initiatives,” Yorobe added.

The Balik Scientist may apply under the short-term engagement, which have a minimum duration of 15 days to maximum of 6 months, medium-term engagement with 6 months duration as minimum but not to exceed within one year from the date of engagement, and long- term engagement with a duration of more than year to three years, subject to the renewal to be determined by the DOST. A long-term engagement should be approved by the secretary.

The IRR itemized the general benefits and incentives, and privileges of the Balik Scientist as regards to the term of their engagements.

Among these benefits are:

  • Exemption from the licensing or permitting requirements of the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) provided that the DOST shall submit to the PRC the list of Balik Scientists with the corresponding duration of awarded engagement; insurance coverage during their engagements which includes accident/travel, health and medical and even dental coverage;
  • Reimbursement of expenses for excess baggage allowance related to scientific projects or activities;
  • Exemption from renouncing their oath of allegiance to the country where they took the oath, unless the Balik Scientist, after the engagement, decides to repatriate and retain the government position, as applicable;
  • Tax and duty exemption in the importation of professional equipment, instruments and materials related to the project/ activity of the Balik Scientist within the period of his her engagement.
  • Other benefits include one roundtrip airfare of the Balik Scientist, and to his or her spouse and dependents for those in long- term engagement;
  • Exemption from payment of Philippine travel tax, when applicable;
  • Application for visa duly subsidized and facilitated by the DOST, the validity of which shall cover the duration of the awarded engagement;
  • Exemption from the requirement  to secure an alien employment permit from the DOLE;
  • Exemption from the submission of  immigration clearance certificates and payment of multiple entry fees and tax;
  • Duty exemption in the importation of personal and household effects, professional equipment,  and materials;
  • Tax and duty exemption in the importation of one motor vehicle whose gross vehicle weight (GWV) does not exceed 3.5 tons shall be allowed subject to the motor vehicle classification standard set forth by the Bureau of Customs.
  • Assistance in the admission to the preferred schools for the minor dependents, relocation allowance, monthly housing or accommodation of the Balik Scientist and his/her family to be determined or in consultation with the Department of Budget and Management.

DOST-PCHRD executive director Jaime C. Montoya said that the DOST’s compensation/benefits scheme for the Balik Scientists is not at par to what they are receiving in their country of origin but the program is more of an appeal to them to come back and share their expertise to advance S&T in the country, thus, the tagline of the program “Balik Puso, Balik Pilipinas.”

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