The House Committee on Appropriations approved on Wednesday, Aug. 5, the substitute bill of the Science for Change Program (S4CP) from the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).
Albay representative Joey Salceda, Pangasinan representative Christopher De Venecia, and DOST secretary Fortunato De La Pena all spoke on behalf of the bill, citing the important role of science and technology in helping the Philippines overcome the Covid-19 pandemic and strengthen its resiliency.
Given the rapid demand for innovation during the pandemic, the bill aims to address the disparity in research and development (R&D) funding in the regions and lack of R&D in the private sector.
The proposed measure will also provide scientific solutions to national problems such as health innovations, transportation, nutrition, food security, food safety and disaster response and risk management.
“With the S4CP bill, there will be continuing support from government, industry and academe to STI for inclusive, equitable and sustainable development,” said De la Peña.
“There will be continuing increase in technology-based & value-adding business investments both foreign and domestic due to a conducive STI supported economic environment; and more self-reliance because of more capable and more confident technology stakeholders.”
While the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) benchmark for a developing country is a budget of 1% of the GDP Expenditure on R&D (GERD), the S4CP bill is pushing for the allocation of 2% in the national budget for R&D within the next five years.
The R&D budget is currently at 0.47% in the 2021 General Appropriations Act.
“When I returned to Congress in 2016, I convened National Scientists, members of the academe, and leading officials of the DOST to craft a national framework for scientific development,” said Salceda.
“We were alarmed by the data from the World Bank, which showed that out of 90 countries, the Philippines only beats Algeria and Sudan for R&D spending per capita. And in terms in share of GDP, we beat only Algeria, Iran, and Indonesia.”
“The Economic Development Cluster supports the Science for Change bill and we will abide by DOF and DBM suggestion not to create a Special Fund but instead propose to allocate a larger budget to DOST for its priority programs and projects,” said Dela Peña. “Starting at P10 billion for 2022 and increasing each year in the next five years until it reaches 2% of the GAA.”
Once approved, the S4CP bill is expected to promote inclusive, equitable and sustainable development through the optimal use of the R&D budget allocated to different government department and agencies. It will also give rise to more national centers of excellence in R&D which are at par with international counterparts and impact social and economic development of the country.