Proposed DOST research budget slashed; cancer studies to take a hit

The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) asked lawmakers to boost its share in the proposed 2021 budget after the funds granted to its research and development centers were lowered by P76 million. 

On Wednesday, September 9, DOST Secretary Fortunato dela Peña told the House committee on appropriations that they originally asked for a 2021 budget worth P36.269 billion. But the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) only approved P23.89 billion.

While the total proposed DOST budget for 2021 is much higher than this year’s budget worth P20.523 billion, there was still a reduction in the allocations set for the agency’s research and development institutes. 

From the P2.488 billion in 2020, the research centers would only be getting P2.411 billion next year. 

Dela Peña said this would heavily affect the plans of 3 centers: the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI), the Metals Industry Research and Development Center (MIRDC), and the Philippine Textile Research Institute (PTRI).

“Your honor, gusto ko lang pong banggitin na sana ay, kung hindi sana ito bababa eh tuloy-tuloy na ‘yong aming mga efforts sa regions (Your honor, I just want to say if the funds would not be lowered, then our efforts in the region would continue),” the DOST chief said. 

The DBM putting a cap on an agency’s proposed allocations, however, is a normal part of the budget process. 

Government departments and offices can propose budgets as high as they want, but the DBM’s final approval depends on the agencies’ absorptive capacity or their ability to actually use the appropriations granted to them.

The DBM also grants budget proposals for infrastructure projects that are shovel-ready or whose construction activities can begin soon.

Possible effects on cancer research

DOST- PNRI chief Carlos Arcilla said they would not have funds to put up a nuclear medicine facility aimed to offer lower cancer detection fees using Positron Emission Tomography-Computed Tomography or PET-CT scan machines.

Arcilla said using a PET-CT scan machine can cost a patient P70,000, but they can lower the amount to just P25,000 through the facility. (READ: Cancer patients struggle with getting treatment during pandemic)

DOST-PTRI director Celia Elumba also said their programs to develop silk farming in different regions would suffer from the budget cut, while the DOST-MIRDC would lose appropriations for its laboratory services. 

House committee on appropriations vice chairperson Ruffy Biazon then said they would do what they can to give additional funds to DOST’s research programs. 

“Maliwanag na para sa R&D [ang budget ay] dapat mas dinadagdagan pa natin kaysa binabawasan… [From the] significant events in our lifetime, it’s clear that science is key, research is a necessity. So tignan po natin kung madadagdagan [ang budget] sa bagay na ‘yan,” Biazon said. 

(It’s clear that the budget for R&D should be increased and not decreased… From the significant events in our lifetime, it’s clear that science is key, research is a necessity. So we’ll see how we can increase the budget for this matter.)

The House committee on appropriations then terminated the budget hearing for DOST after 3 hours, in effect approving its proposed P23.89 billion budget. 

The panel can still increase the allocations for DOST once the entire 2021 budget is brought before the plenary for debates and amendments. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the Senate and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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