The House committee on appropriations has approved a substitute bill seeking to strengthen the Balik Scientist Program (BSP) to include more incentives and benefits that will lure Filipino scientists, technology experts, and researchers staying abroad to return to the country and share their knowledge and expertise to help accelerate the country’s economic and social development.
The appropriations committee chaired by Davao representative Isidro T. Ungab approved the substitute bill to House Bill 5388 or the proposed “Balik Scientist Act” principally authored by Zamboanga del Sur representative Victor J. Yu.
Yu, chairman of the committee on science and technology, said due to the success of the “Balik Scientist Program,” which was established through Presidential Decree 819 dated Oct. 24, 9175 for a period of five years, the BSP has been revived and instituted under the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) through Executive Order No. 130 dated Oct. 25, 1993.
“The existing BSP needs to be institutionalized and strengthened to provide better incentives and benefits that would draw Filipino experts to return to their beloved country and share even for a limited period of time, and hopefully for good, their knowledge and expertise, thereby helping the country attain its objective of accelerating economic and social development,” said Yu.
The substitute bill defines a “Balik Scientist” as a science or technology expert or professional, as certified by the DOST, who is a Filipino citizen or a foreigner of Filipino descent, residing abroad, and contracted by the government to return and serve in the Philippines along his or her field of expertise for a short-term program or award with a duration of at least 30 days per award to be served within one year from the date of the award, or long-term award with a duration of 24 to 36 months subject to renewal when necessary to be determined by the DOST and to be served within five years from the date of the award.
The measure provides various incentives for short- and long-term programs for the Balik Scientists.
For the short-term award, the incentives are: provision of one free round-trip airfare originating from a foreign country to the Philippines; daily allowance to be determined by the DOST shall be exempt from income tax; participation in Grants-in-Aid (GIA) research and development projects; and exemption from the licensing or permit requirement of the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC).
Other short term award incentives are: reimbursement of expenses for excess baggage allowance related to scientific project or activities; exemption from taxes and duties of instruments and materials related to the scientific program or activities.
The Balik Scientist will also be exempted from the payment of visa, immigration and registration fees.
For long-term award or program, the incentives for Balik Scientists are: provision of one free one-way airfare from a foreign country to the Philippines, including airfare for the spouse and two minor dependents, and one free return trip airfare after completion of the award or program; reimbursement of expenses for excess baggage allowance related to scientific project or activities; relocation allowance to be determined by the DOST; monthly allowance to be determined by the DOST shall be exempt from income tax; housing may be arranged by pre-determined host institutions; and as determined by the DOST, duty and tax-free importation of personal effects and professional instruments and materials in quantities and of class suitable to the profession, rank or profession of the Balik Scientists importing them for their own use and not for barter or sale.
Other incentives are: donation of equipment, instruments and materials related to the scientific program or activities shall be exempted from taxes and duties; exemption from payment of travel tax of the Balik Scientist, including his or her immediate family members as certified by the DOST; exemption from the submission of Immigration Clearance Certificate and payment of multiple entry fees; exemption from securing alien employment permit within the duration of the award or program; exemption from the licensing or permit requirement of the PRC; and participation in Grants-in-Aid for research and development projects approved by the DOST secretary.