Press Releases

On funding the Science for Change Act

April 19th, 2021

Cabinet economic development cluster supports Science for Change Act; Salceda asks economic managers to commit more funding for research and development

House Ways and Means Chair Joey Sarte Salceda (Albay, 2nd district) says that the Economic Development Cluster of the Duterte cabinet, in its meeting today, supports the Science for Change Act endorsed by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and principally authored by Salceda.

The bill has already been approved by the Committee on Science and Technology of the House, and is awaiting the issuance of a substitute bill to be discussed in plenary.

In a recorded message to the cluster, Salceda asked the EDC to “commit the country to greater R&D funding in the future.” Salceda aims to meet a target 1% of GDP in research and development funding by 2025.

“When I returned to Congress in 2016, and in preparation for my policy paper titled “Dutertenomics,” I convened National Scientists, members of the academe, and leading officials of the DOST to craft a national framework for scientific development,” Salceda said.

This, Salceda says, was where the bill originated.

PH among the lowest spenders on R&D

In his message to the EDC, Salceda cited data suggesting that the Philippines is among the lowest spenders on R&D in the world.

“We were alarmed by data from the World Bank which showed that, out of 90 major countries, the Philippines beats only Algeria and Sudan for R&D spending per capita. In terms of share of GDP, we beat only Algeria, Iran, and Indonesia,” Salceda said.

“We are rich in natural resources and in people, but these resources alone do not determine the wealth of nations. Small, resource-scarce nations like Israel, the Netherlands, Singapore, and South Korea are among the world’s wealthiest countries. They are also among the highest spenders in R&D,” Salceda cited.

“The economics is simple: while people and resources set a country’s initial potential, investing in science moves its production possibilities frontier ever-forward. As more global wealth is generated by knowledge, not resources or sheer labor, R&D is no longer just beneficial. In a hypercompetitive global economy, it is a matter of survival,” Salceda adds.

Push for more R&D in the national budget

Salceda says the bill will set the tone for more funding for research in the national budget.

“In 2017, we set an initial funding of P21 billion for Science for Change. We estimated that, if we were to double R&D spending every year, it would be a good starting point. Within five years, we can reach the 1% of GDP prescribed by the UNESCO as the minimum R&D investment for a country to be competitive.”

“2021 GAA funding for R&D is at around P18 billion, still below that starting point. But if we start now, the science for change formula can still help us meet the threshold by 2025. The Science for Change bill outlines how our R&D investments will be spent to improve every facet of the economy and society.”

Salceda also says that while he understands the revenue constraints as the lead tax policymaker in the House, he also wants to emphasize that investing in science and technology is a must for national survival.

“While I understand our revenue constraints better than anybody in Congress, I hope that the EDC will at least approve an increase in our current R&D spending and commit the country to greater R&D funding in the future. The wealth of nations is now knowledge driven. The solutions to our most life-threatening problems are knowledge driven. We must invest in R&D not only so that we may grow, but so that we may survive,” Salceda said.

Science investments needed to solve pandemics, climate change

The House tax chair also said that science investments are crucial for addressing present-day issues such as the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change.

“Our most important national problems – climate change, food security, and the pandemic – demand a scientific response,” Salceda said.

“Our tightest regional competitor, Vietnam, knows this.

As a share of GDP, they now spend four times what we do on research. As a result, their students now rank 4th in the world for science, according to PISA 2018. They are now among the world’s best farmers. Their scientists are now leading the world in producing a vaccine for ASF. Soon, they will be manufacturing COVID-19 vaccines. This was a war-torn country that began much poorer and hungrier than us. This is the transformative power of scientific development.” Salceda concluded.

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