An appeal for more gov’t support for S&T
Agham welcomes Fortunato dela Peña as the new science secretary. His solid background—as engineer, government planning officer of the defunct National Science and Technology Authority, and undersecretary of the Department of Science and Technology under four administrations—should serve him well in his current post.
We hail his plan to redirect DOST to a more grassroots-oriented thrust by intensifying its scholarship and R&D (research and development) programs in the countryside. This brings some hope to the impoverished rural communities which historically have been left in the “backwoods of technology.”
The preceding Aquino administration left a slumping local agricultural industry that contributed only 11.3 percent to the national economy, even as the poverty incidence among our fishers and farmers stood at 39.2 percent and 38.3 percent, respectively, no thanks to the country’s historical subservience to globalization.
We need more scholars from the countryside, who will give back to their communities through meaningful innovations that will uplift the dire conditions of peasants (who constitute the majority of the rural population) and will contribute to the local and national economy.
While Secretary Dela Peña is addressing the problem of rural underdevelopment by partnering with the private sector, we are wary that our R&D endeavor for the countryside may end up very costly, without benefiting our rural communities.
It’s a primary role of government to revitalize S&T (science and technology) in the country. And government is in the best position to prioritize R&D, invention, innovation and their utilization; as well as to support S&T education, training and services.
On the Diwata project, we urge him to review the dismal conditions facing S&T workers in government—job insecurity, contractualization and low wages. In worst cases, they have to contend with high-risk situations, even death, and indeed many have perished in the performance of their duties—like Leilani Naga and Melvin Simanga who died during cloud seeding operations; and the renowned ethnobotanist Leonard Co and his colleagues, and Delle Salvador, an engineer, who, while on a scientific and humanitarian mission, were killed by military forces.
Agham, its S&T allies from the national agencies and research institutions, together with S&T advocates, call on Secretary Dela Peña, the Duterte administration and Congress to: heed the Filipino scientists and engineers’ clamor for an R&D allocation of at least 1 percent of the country’s GDP; end the contractualization of S&T workers; raise their minimum monthly salary to the level of a decent living wage of P32,580; resolve all the killings of S&T workers, going back to previous administrations; stop the harassment of Filipino scientist-activists and ensure their protection.
Thus shall we pave the way for an S&T environment that caters to domestic needs and is more conducive to national development.
—FENY COSICO, secretary general, Advocates of Science and Technology for the People (Agham), [email protected]
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