S&T in PH earns another achievement with signing of Balik Scientist Law

By Dhel Nazario

Science and Technology (S&T) in the Philippines has earned yet another achievement with the recent signing of the Balik Scientist Law; an act that would give more incentives to returning Filipino experts, scientists, inventors, and engineers.

President Rodrigo Duterte signed the Balik Scientist law also known as an “Act Institutionalizing the Balik Scientist Program,” on June 15. This would now strengthen the then implemented Balik Scientist Program of the Department of Science and Technology’s (DOST) which was first established in 1975 through Presidential Decree 819 and was only implemented in 1986.

Since its implementation, several scientists have come back to the country to mentor science and engineering students and faculty along their line of expertise through research and development, teaching, and other activities. This sharing of expertise significantly contributed to the acceleration of the scientific, agro-industrial and economic development of the country.

Returning scientists can now participate in DOST’s Grants-in-Aid research and development which will be released through the host institution for the implementation of the project in accordance with relevant government regulations and the need of the program involved.

A Balik Scientist can also enjoy various compensations that include tax and duty exemptions to importation of professional equipment and materials, free medical and accident insurance covering the award period, reimbursement of expenses for baggage related to scientific projects, and even exemption from “renouncing their oath of allegiance to the country where they took the oath.”

It also includes special working and nonworking visas, a round-trip airfare from a foreign country to the Philippines, exemption from local travel tax, and DOST-subsidized visa application.

The bill also states that long-term Balik Scientist awardees can enjoy relocation benefits, such as support in securing job opportunities for the spouse of the awardee, and admission support for the children of awardees in preferred schools, relocation allowance and monthly housing or accommodation allowance, and funding for the establishment and development of a facility or laboratory.

“Malaking tulong ang batas na ito upang mahikayat ang mga Pinoy scientist na bumalik sa bansa at tumulong sa pagpapaunlad sa bayan at sa buhay ng mga Pilipino. Matutugunan din ng batas na ito ang kakulangan ng bansa sa scientists, upang makasabay na tayo sa ating mga kapitbahay sa Asya na mas marami ang nagtatrabaho sa research and development,” said Sen. Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV, the principal sponsor and author of the said bill.

(This law is a big help in encouraging Filipino scientists to return to the country and contribute to improve the nation and people’s lives. This law addresses the problem on the low number of scientists in the country so we can fare better with our neighboring countries in Asia who have more people working in research and development.)

DOST Secretary Fortunato de la Peña said that is very crucial to strengthen the Balik Scientist program of the DOST due to areas that lack experts such as space technology and artificial intelligence which are just starting. He believes having enough human resource in these fields would help the country in conducting various research and development projects in these areas.

The Balik Scientist program will prioritize experts in space, technology, artificial intelligence, biomedical engineering, energy, agriculture, food technology, biotechnology, information and communications technology, pharmaceutical, disaster mitigation and management, environment and natural resources, electronics, genomics, health, manufacturing, nanotechnology, cybersecurity, and semiconductors.