PH lacks 19,000 scientists in research and dev't – Bam Aquino

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines needs 19,000 more scientists to be a significant force in research and development, Senator Paulo Benigno "Bam" Aquino said on Saturday, May 13.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (Unesco) suggests a ratio of 380 scientists per every million population.

During a hearing on Senate Bill No. 175 or "Balik Scientist Bill", it was discovered that the country only has 189 scientists per million, far from the ideal figure. There are about 110 million Filipinos based on the latest census. (READ: Can the Philippines produce its own Einsteins?)

“Paano tayo makakasabay sa ibang bansa pagdating sa research at development kung kulang tayo ng 19,000 scientists?” asked Aquino, author of the bill and the current chair of the Senate committee on science and technology. (How do we keep up with other countries in terms of research and development if we lack 19,000 scientists?)

The Balik Scientist Bill seeks to institutionalize the program of the Department of Science and Technology.

The program provides overseas Filipino scientists with financial benefits and incentives to encourage them to return and contribute to research that will address development gaps in the country.

“Sa tulong ng panukalang ito, mahihikayat natin ang mga Filipino scientist sa ibang bansa na bumalik sa Pilipinas at tumulong sa pagpapaunlad ng ating research and development,” Aquino said. (With the help of this measure, we can encourage Filipino scientists abroad to return to the Philippines and help boost research and development.)

The Balik Scientist program is among the priority measures of the Senate committee on science and technology.

Data from the Senate committe shows that the country pales in comparison with other countries in terms of the number of scientists in the government and private sector.

According to the committee, South Korea and the US have 5,300 and 3,500 scientists per million, respectively. In Southeast Asia, Malaysia has 2,000 scientists per million – way higher than the Philippines' 189 per million. 

A 2015 report from UNESCO Institute for Statistics shows that among 157 countries, Israel has the biggest number of scientists per million population at 8,300. In Asia, South Korea is tops with 6,900 scientists per million as of 2015.

Meanwhile, Singapore and Malaysia each have 6,700 and 2,100, respectively. They are the top two countries in Southeast Asia with scientists.

Higher budget

According to Assistant Secretary Teodoro Gatchalian of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), current funding for the Balik Scientist program will increase significantly if passed into law.

The DOST has a budget of P25 million for the program this 2017. The increase will attract more Filipinos in the field to return home and serve the country, Gatchalian said. (READ: Making policy decisions on the Philippine scientific enterprise system)

The Balik Scientist program under the DOST was first established in 1975 under Presidential Decree No. 819 under the administration of former president Ferdinand E. Marcos. It was implemented until 1986.

Former President Fidel V. Ramos revived the program in 1993 and put it under the DOST through Executive Order No. 130. – Rappler.com