[OPINION] Are we going to prioritize research and development after this?

Carlo Santiago
'Wouldn't it be beneficial to future generations if we start noticing and trusting the talents of our own people instead of doubting their capabilities?'

Seeing how ill-prepared our country was for this pandemic, we can also see how much we have taken the education and research sector for granted. There should have been several universities or research bodies who would have been able to help our government fight this outbreak, if only the latter had prioritized them and provided support. So the question is, are we going to learn now and be a research-inclined country after this pandemic?

Being a prior research scholar overseas made me see the potential of the Philippines, if only the country’s budget for science and technology was allocated properly. Working as a research assistant and a graduate scholar in Taiwan made me realize how incomparable our current educational system is with that of Taiwan and other research-oriented countries. The undergraduate and graduate students in our university abroad were provided with a laboratory and equipment mostly care of the government’s Ministry of Science and Technology. (READ: [OPINION] We need to professionalize biology in the Philippines)

Having several Filipino colleagues abroad and seeing how passionate they are in their respective fields of expertise makes me both sad and proud. After all, you can clearly tell that Filipinos are competent and can excel in fields like engineering, biosciences, and business-related studies. But they choose to excel overseas because the Philippine government does not prioritize their sectors. 

Several countries have extended their help to the Philippines to help fight COVID-19. But we will always have our backs against the wall if we continue being unable to stand on our own and provide for our own people’s needs. There have been several projects that the DOST (Department of Science and Technology) opened for research sectors, but these alone cannot sustain the number of talents we have in the Philippines. In other countries like Taiwan, the government provides subsidies even for private universities, in order for them to be always at par if with, if not ahead of, other countries in technological advancements. They even provide subsidies to entice great talents from other countries. 

Our sole response so far to the current pandemic is a quasi-effective lockdown and fear-instilling policies. Even if our economy somehow survives the current pandemic, are we still going to be short-sighted and look for short-term solutions? Would it not be better if we start seating ourselves in the front row and taking initiatives in development? Instead of waiting in the backlines for rescue, wouldn’t it be beneficial to future generations if we start noticing and trusting the talents of our own people instead of doubting their capabilities? (READ: PH science advisory body urges research-based approach to fight coronavirus)

I can vouch for the capabilities of young, hungry, innovative Filipinos. We are in an era where technology will be the main parameter of a country’s economic success. Tomorrow belongs to the people whose governments are approaching education parellel with continuous loops of learning. Our success as a country will not be defined by how compassionate and decorated our politicians and celebrities are, but by our educational system’s ability to adapt, learn, and apply.

The Filipino youth won’t be able to grasp the severity of our condition if they are still following ill-guided systems and mediocre standards. Apart from our healthcare system, we should also begin investing in on-demand technologies like artificial intelligence, the internet of things, etc. If our system is fixed and we start teaching the youth to be proactive in crisis situations, this would be beneficial to everybody. There is, after all, a thin line between promoting passiveness and promoting ignorance.

When are we really going to start thinking that a country with a research-oriented educational system will always be successful? When are we going to realize that being consistently dependent on agenda-inspired aid will never do us any good? When are we, as Filipinos, going to demand our right for an competent educational system and competent government? – Rappler.com

Carlo Santiago is a Project Manager at Kinpo Electronics Philippines, and a consultant on autonomous navigation systems for a Japanese company based in the Philippines.