MANILA, Philippines – First, a former Commission on Higher Education (CHED) official hurled corruption allegations against the Philippine-California Advanced Research Institute (PCARI), a 5-year project parked with the commission.
Then the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) – wary of bringing in American partners for the multi-billion project – did not immediately evaluate the PCARI as required by law.
After not going anywhere for two years, the controversial PCARI project will finally see the light of day.
On Monday, February 9, CHED and the University of California (UC) Berkeley participated in a turnover ceremony of the memorandum of agreement and the Research Funding Agreements (RFAs), marking the start of activities under PCARI.
Through the RFAs, 8 projects will now be funded and implemented by government:
The PCARI is a government-funded 5-year project under CHED that taps into the expertise of foreign universities – UC Berkeley and UC San Francisco – to develop high-end research capabilities of Filipino scientists and researchers.
It became controversial in 2013 after former CHED Commissioner Nona Ricafort accused the project of being "tailored-fit to UC Berkeley which may encounter difficulty in the bidding process."
"I feel the need for a more thorough attention on the details justifying the P10-billion research project as related to individual project evaluation of budget cost," Ricafort said in her resignation letter dated September 12, 2013 addressed to the President.
CHED has since defended the project, saying it will "enhance the country’s academic and economic competitiveness" especially in light of ASEAN integration.
On why the American universities do not have counterpart funds for the project, CHED Chairperson Patricia Licuanan earlier said their funding comes "in kind" as they share their expertise, research findings, and laboratories with CHED.
No PCARI in 2015 budget
The General Appropriations Act (GAA) of 2013 and 2014 earmarked an annual P1.763-billion appropriation for PCARI.
But because DOST earlier "refused" to participate in the steering committee for the project, PCARI has not started any of the selected 25 translational medicine and information infrastructure development research projects in the last two years.
A 2013 GAA provision requires the joint evaluation and approval of the proposals by CHED, DOST, and the Department of Health.
With two years worth of budget allocation unused, CHED no longer included the project in its 2015 budget. (READ: Int'l research project in limbo, not in CHED's 2015 budget)
Now that PCARI is finally moving, the commission will shell out a total of P980 million ($22.10 million)* for the 8 projects in the next two years.
"These projects aim to enhance the research capacity of Filipino faculty-student researchers and address national development priorities," CHED said in a statement Thursday, February 12.
Aside from the 8 projects, government will also provide equipment for a shared genomics laboratory in the Philippine Genomics Center, and the animal surgical laboratory at the UP College of Veterinary Medicine. – Rappler.com
*1 US$ = P44.34
Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.