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Scientists lobby for more public investment in STEM

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SCIENTISTS said government support for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) remains low and called for a long-term plan to boost the scientific community.

The Advocates of Science and Technology for the People, who go by the acronym AGHAM, issued the statement after President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. called himself a “frustrated scientist” during a recent convention for the Balik Scientist Program, which aims to encourage expatriate Filipino STEM professionals to return to the Philippines to help with “scientific, agro-industrial, and economic development.”

“The present government should acknowledge that we are suffering from brain drain due to the absence of a national program for the development of the country’s science and technology that could provide opportunities locally for our experts,” AGHAM said in its statement.

“This is critical as climate change is one of the important things that need to be addressed using science-based action,” AGHAM said.

AGHAM said the President “failed to recognize the historical neglect of our science and technology with the low public investment in science and mathematics education, lack of academic and industry institutional collaboration in research and development, and a growth pattern based largely on trade in services which has resulted in deindustrialization.”

AGHAM said the budgetary allocation for research and development does not meet the recommended UNESCO threshold of 1% of gross domestic product.

“There should be serious consideration in building our own scientific capacity for our own economic development,” the group said. “In this way, Filipino scientists no longer need to go abroad; rather their skills and expertise would be put to great use for the country’s needs.”

Under the proposed 2023 national budget, the Department of Science and Technology (DoST) will receive P24.06 billion, slightly lower than its current budget of P24.27 billion.

Science and Technology Secretary Renato Solidum, Jr., told the House of Representatives last month that the DoST originally proposed a P44.17-billion budget.

Half or P12.14 billion of the proposed budget for the DoST will be allocated to scientific and technical services, while 25.32% or P6.09 billion will be earmarked for the office of the secretary and regional offices. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

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