Thursday, June 20, 2024

S&T research project between PH gov’t, US universities launched after 2-year delay

The Philippine-California Advanced Research Institute (PCARI) Project was finally launched on Thursday, March 26, at the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) in Quezon City, more than two years after the Philippine and US governments signed an agreement to collaborate on science and technology (S&T).

Photo shows (from left) UC Berkeley dean Shankar Sastry, DBM sec. Florencio Abad, CHED chair Patricia Licuanan, and UC San Francisco's Anne-Catherine Lagarde
Photo shows (from left) UC Berkeley dean Shankar Sastry, DBM sec. Florencio Abad, CHED chair Patricia Licuanan, and UC San Francisco’s Anne-Catherine Lagarde

The delay was caused mainly by bureaucratic gridlock and former CHED officials, who questioned the project?s P8-billion budget and branded it as ?anomalous? and disadvantageous to the Philippines. The budget has since been reduced to P1.7 billion.

Silicon Valley stalwart Diosdado “Dado” Banatao, who was the main proponent of the high-tech R&D initiative, was not able to make it to the event, although top officials from the University of California at Berkeley and San Francisco were in attendance. Department of Budget and Management secretary Florencio ?Butch? Abad was also at the launch.

In her opening speech, CHED chair Patricia Licuanan said the PCARI project is a new approach that will enhance skills and expertise through research partnerships with top research universities in California.

The project is going to be implemented by creating two virtual institutes: the Information Infrastructure Development (IID) for information technology, energy, e-government and e-education; and the Health Innovation and Translational Medicine (HITM) that will direct projects in health care.

Three governments will be involved in the project, namely CHED, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), and the Department of Health (DOH).

Two Philippine universities are participating in the initial phase — the University of the Philippines (UP) and the Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU). Licuanan said other universities will be invited in the future.

“Unlike past capacity building efforts, PCARI is not primarily a scholarship program but scholarships and training are an important component,” Licuanan said.

The CHED chief said PCARI would give Philippine universities access to the high-end expertise and laboratories of University of California. ?UC scientists in turn would have the opportunity to apply their expertise to real problems of a developing country thus not only expanding their knowledge but making a difference in the lives of people,? she said.

Licuanan added: ?We must stress that the PCARI research problems were identified by the Philippines and the Philippine government provides the budget. That too makes PCARI unusual. The project proposals were developed jointly by Philippine and California project leaders.?

During the 2013 budget hearings, CHED presented a PCARI project portfolio of 25 selected project proposals. After going through the review process of the DOST, seven projects were approved — four for IID and three in HITM.

UC Berkeley dean Shankar Sastry said during the launch that collaboration will include the “best researches and projects” that the school has to offer.

Abad, meanwhile, said the country needs to develop its informational infrastructure to ensure that the Philippine won’t lag behind the rest of the world in terms of research and development.

“We’re happy that this initiative has finally launched as it would help our country to technologically grow even while sustaining high levels of economic growth,” he said.

Abad added, “Because of implementation delays, the PCARI?s funding support will have to come from budgetary appropriations of the past two years as we did not make any appropriations in this year’s national budget.

“But the National Government will commit to invest in the project’s continuation by next year as our country badly needs to expand in the areas of research and development.”


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