By Mario Casayuran
Senator Panfilo M. Lacson pressed the Duterte administration on Wednesday to increase the budgetary support for research and development (R&D) work being done by Filipino scientists in the coming national budget submission to Congress.
Lacson made the call following fears that the Department of Health (DOH) lacks medical supplies and equipment to deal with the surge of COVID-19 patients.
But a silver lining surfaced in the gloomy health situation after Lacson pointed out that “despite measly state support, our local scientists have given us a major boost – and much-needed hope – in dealing with the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), by way of test kits developed by local experts at the University of the Philippines-National Institute of Health (UPNIH).’’
Lacson said tests using these kits would cost less than one sixth of those using imported kits.
“I have repeatedly raised the issue of the minuscule budgetary allocation for research and development (R&D) in the national budget year in, year out – an average of, lo and behold, 0.4 percent of the annual budget from 2016 to 2020, including 0.39 percent for 2020. For the same five-year period, the DOST’s average budget is only P20 billion or a meager 0.56 percent against the trillions of pesos that we pass every year as our national budget,’’ he said.
“This even as I consistently amended the budget measure by augmenting the budgets of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and its programs. For 2020, I sought a P50 million increase for NICER, P100 million increase for STAMINA4Space and a P100 million increase for CRADLE; as well as P537.991 million for UPLB’s National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology,’’ he stressed.
“Had our homegrown scientists been given the much-needed additional budgetary support for R&D, who knows how much more they can contribute? As it is, by not supporting them adequately, we’re wasting their talents and opportunities to help our nation,’’ he explained.
“This should be a wake-up call for our government officials who do not invest in research and development (R&D) through the budget, but instead are supplier-friendly “shopaholics” who choose to shop or buy from their “favorite” suppliers,’’ he added.
“If only the kudos and support that our local scientists richly deserve, especially during these trying times, would be translated into increased support from our government,’’ he said.
“Science entails research. Science can greatly help especially during looming disasters such as COVID-19. It is high time our government throw its support behind our homegrown scientists,’’ he explained.