DOST budget for research cut by ₱76 million

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 9) — The Department of Science and Technology is bound to get a smaller budget for its research and development (R&D) sector for 2021, officials said Wednesday.

From ₱2.488 billion for R&D institutes under the 2020 General Appropriations Act, the approved funding for the agency's sector was reduced to ₱2.411 billion for 2021— equivalent to a budget cut of more than ₱76 million under the National Expenditure Program.

The Department of Budget and Management approved a higher 2021 budget for the DOST worth ₱23.8 billion for its overall operations, reflecting a ₱3.3-billion increase from ₱20.5 billion in 2020. However, the agency said that it had initially proposed a much higher allocation of ₱36.2 billion for its numerous projects that will support small businesses, scholars, overseas Filipino workers, and other communities in the face of the pandemic.

During the budget hearing of the House Committee on Appropriations, DOST Secretary Fortunato dela Peña said the reduction will affect the operations of some R&D programs, including those from the Philippine Textile Research Institute, the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute and the Metals Industry Research and Development Center.

PTRI Executive Director Celia Elumba said communities in the regions which have been relying on textile as primary means of livelihood during the pandemic will be largely affected.

"Magkakaroon ng impediment sa pagpapatuloy ng services, yung support na mabibigay namin sa kanila (commmunities) kasi kailangan namin ng technologies to help them."

[Translation: There will be an impediment in the resumption of services, the suppot that we can provide to the communities because we need technologies to help them.]

PNRI Executive Director Carlo Arcilla also said additional funds were supposed to help Filipino cancer patients through nuclear technology and other related resources.

"Every year, 70,000 po ang namamatay sa cancer and a [way to diagnose them early] is nuclear CT scans. Magtatayo po sana kami ng nuclear medicine facility and ang initial part po niyan ay nabawasan po," he told the panel.

[Translation: Every year, around 70,000 people die of cancer and a way to diagnose them early is through nuclear CT scans. We wish to construct a nuclear medicine facilitiy and the initial portion intended for that was decreased.]

DOST Asec. Maridon Sahagun also bared that allocation for their other proposed R&D projects were not considered, including those intended for COVID-19 research.

Dela Peña said fortunately, funding for the agency's proposed virology institute has been included in the national government's Build, Build, Build program, as the Philippines grapples with vaccine development, especially against the COVID-19 disease.

However, other problems on science and technology have yet to be considered, especially with lack of support, foreign and local investment, and significant attention from the national government.

"Ang dami nating pinagtatapos na PhD at Masters na naghahanap ng research work, wala namang bagong [plantilla] item sa DOST, SUCs (state universities and colleges) para sa ganyang linya," Dela Peña noted. "Sa private sector, kaunti ang investors ng R&D."

[Translation: A lot of students are finishing with PhD and Masters degrees and are looking for research work, but there are no new plantilla items for them under the DOST, SUCs for that line. In the private sector, very minimal investors support R&D.]

His final word to congressmen before the hearing concluded: "Ayoko na pong mag-speech na sasabihin, 'kawawa ang Pilipinas.'...sana po mangarap tayo nang maigi, hindi 'yung puro naghahabol na lang tayo [sa ibang mga bansa]."

[Translation: I don't want to give a speech that will say again that the Philippines is still lagging behind...I hope we dream better, instead of still catching up with other countries.]