Scientist activist group AGHAM – Advocates of Science and Technology for the People led the Philippine leg of the #GlobalScienceMarch on Earth Day, highlighting the state of Filipino science and technology and calling on the Duterte administration to begin crafting solutions to develop the country’s science and technology (S&T) sector.

“The Duterte administration should take an active role to reverse the historical neglect of S&T. At the minimum, it should implement immediate policy reforms aimed at addressing gut issues of the sector such as contractualization of S&T workers. It should also strive to create long-term solutions that ensure the growth of S&T and direct it towards national development,” said Finesa Cosico, secretary-general of AGHAM.

While the group acknowledged that the current administration has had several positive moves, it lamented that after almost a year in office, there has been no substantive change for the S&T sector under President Duterte. The country lacks both a comprehensive plan for the development of science and technology and a policy of national industrialization where S&T can be directed towards.

“Many problems in the S&T sector can be promptly addressed through numerous administrative actions. The budget for research and development can be steadily increased to pave the way for the creation of new scientific knowledge and technological applications that can be used to relive the people of some burden. But such reforms can only go so far; we have seen this in the forestalled termination of Project NOAH and we will likely see more of similar scenario if the current norm continues,” said Cosico.

News of Project NOAH’s termination shook the nation earlier this year after the project leader announced that the project will end due to lack of funding. Its termination was later forestalled after being absorbed by University of the Philippines.

“Under the current system of research and development, crucial functions such as disaster risk reduction are undertaken on a per-project basis. This greatly affects the sustainability of the products of research that come from these projects, and thus implies the uncertaintly of even the most critical services for the people. With greater for research and development, the welfare of S&T workers will also be ensured,” said Cosico.

AGHAM called the contractualization of S&T a workers a “gut issue” as it threatens the rights of scientists as workers, removing their security of tenure and basic welfare and benefits. It noted that many S&T workers are employed on a per-project basis, marking an uncertainty in their positions as they have no assurance of a new job once their project ends.

“At the soonest, President Duterte should recognize the scheme of ‘project-based employees’ as a veil of contractualization among S&T workers. Supporting our scientists and prioritizing research and development combined with genuine agrarian reform for farmers in the country side will be the building blocks for national industrialization which is much needed for national development,” said Cosico.

According to AGHAM, both the immediate and the institutional changes needed to revitalize the S&T sector can be found in the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms of the peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines. National industrialization is a key aspect of both the GRP and NDFP drafts of CASER.

“It is high time that Pres. Duterte start resolving issues in the S&T sector. Ensuring the signing of CASER within the year will be a concrete step towards achieving a science and technology that will truly serve the interests of the majority,” Cosico ended.#


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