By Billy Begas
The Economic Development Cluster (EDC) of the Duterte administration has expressed support to the proposed Science for Change Act authored by House Committee on Ways and Means chairperson Joey Salceda.
Salceda has been pushing for the measure that will increase the country’s spending on Science that will bring about economic growth.
He said the economic cluster expressed support to the proposal in a meeting on Monday, April 19.
He said it is alarming that data from the World Bank (WB) showed that out of 90 major countries, the Philippines beats only Algeria and Sudan for R&D spending per capita while in terms of share of GDP the Philippines only beat Algeria, Iran, and Indonesia.
“We are rich in natural resources and in people, but these resources alone do not determine the wealth of nations. Small, resource-scarce nations like Israel, the Netherlands, Singapore, and South Korea are among the world’s wealthiest countries. They are also among the highest spenders in R&D,” Salceda pointed out.
Salceda said that Vietnam now spends four times what the Philippines spends on research.
“As a result, their students now rank 4th in the world for science, according to PISA 2018. They are now among the world’s best farmers. Their scientists are now leading the world in producing a vaccine for ASF. Soon, they will be manufacturing COVID-19 vaccines. This was a war-torn country that began much poorer and hungrier than us. This is the transformative power of scientific development.” Salceda said.
For 2021, Salceda said the government allocated P18 billion for R&D. If the government doubles the spending every year, the 1% minimum set by UNESCO will be attained by 2025.
“The economics is simple: while people and resources set a country’s initial potential, investing in science moves its production possibilities frontier ever-forward. As more global wealth is generated by knowledge, not resources or sheer labor, R&D is no longer just beneficial. In a hypercompetitive global economy, it is a matter of survival,” Salceda added.
Salceda said he understands the government’s revenue constraints but emphasized that investing in science and technology is a must for national survival.
“While I understand our revenue constraints better than anybody in Congress, I hope that the EDC will at least approve an increase in our current R&D spending and commit the country to greater R&D funding in the future. The wealth of nations is now knowledge driven. The solutions to our most life-threatening problems are knowledge driven. We must invest in R&D not only so that we may grow, but so that we may survive,” Salceda stressed.
He also added that science investments are crucial in addressing the current issues — climate change, food security, and the pandemic.
The House Committee on Science and Technology has approved Salceda’s measure. It will be endorsed to the plenary for further deliberation.