Data from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization gathered between 2013 and 2015 has found the Philippines to spend only 0.1 of its annual gross domestic product on research and development.
This is a long way from its recommended 1 percent, indicating the government’s indifference towards R&D and the plight of the country’s research scholars.
Tellingly, the research budget of the Department of Science and Technology was cut last October by P76 million, affecting over 888 projects, including cancer research. It is estimated that only 10 percent of research projects in 2021 would be funded.
Despite this atrocious lack of funding, the nation’s scientists were still among the first to heed the call of a nation caught unprepared by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Dr. Raul Destura and his team at the UP National Institute of Health managed to develop GenAmplify, a low-cost diagnostic kit for Covid-19. The project, funded by the DOST, was started early as January, when China first released the new coronavirus’ genome sequence to the global scientific community. UP also embarked on other projects that would produce personal protective equipment for frontliners, and engineering solutions that would aid the implementation of health and safety measures.
Despite the pandemic highlighting the need for scientific research, it would seem that our government has refused to give Filipino scientists the attention they deserve.
Scholars under the Accelerated Science and Technology Human Resource Development Program of the DOST’s Science Education Institute have already been facing constant delays in the release of stipends.
UNESCO recommends a benchmark of 380 researchers, scientists and engineers (RSEs) per million population. The Philippines not only has a measly 186 RSEs per million, disregard for the importance of research is a common trait among current government officials.
Despite the devastating effects of the pandemic that has been amplified by the government’s bumbling response, it would seem that nobody in government has realized the importance of a nation’s researchers, scientists, and engineers. Countries without an empowered R&D sector will find the road to recovery tougher and from the looks of it, Filipinos will have to continue fighting the coronavirus with programs and solutions that rely on guesswork and bravado rather than science.*