The emergence of the COVID-19 outbreak has exposed how underrated science and technology are in the Philippines.
During the quarantine, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and other government agencies expressed strong support for the better adoption of digitalization in various sectors and the establishment of the Virology Science and Technology Institute of the Philippines.
The government, however, removed nearly P76 million from the proposed P36.269-billion budget of DOST for 2021, despite the drastic situation brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic which calls for more scientific and technology-based solutions.
The pandemic also showed how far behind the Philippines compared to other countries in addressing health crises such as COVID-19. The government had to grasp at straws from contact tracing to lack of facilities and shortage of healthcare practitioners.
During the pre-pandemic days, the Philippines had always been fraught with devastating natural disasters such as typhoons and earthquakes, but there was little to no funding of research efforts to mitigate the damages and potential human casualties.
The Outstanding Young Scientists, Inc. (OYSI) bared that the country lacks the average 19,000 scientists needed, with only 189 scientists per million, which is much lower than the ideal ratio of 380 per million population.
Some of the reasons cited include the lack of job opportunities available in the country and the fact that being a scientist is seen as an underappreciated career to undertake.
It is quite a shame when the country currently has 11 Filipino scientists among the top 100 in the Asian Scientist magazine.
In Southeast Asia, the Philippines has the least number of patents and the least number of science and technology graduates. This contributes the least to research and development in the region.
Worsening the situation, many Filipino politicians seeming to have a negative perception of science and technology.
Senator Cynthia Villar once asked: “Baliw na baliw kayo sa research. Aanhin niyo ba ang research?”
DENR Usec. Benny Antiporda called the UP Marine Science Institute as “bayaran” over the issue of the Manila Bay fake white sand project.
The Duterte administration, in its entirety, imposed a militarist, unscientific approach against the pandemic.
It’s strange for the Philippine government not to consider science and technology being involved in every innovation and development that contributed to a better quality of living.
It’s a good thing, however, that the pandemic brought to the spotlight concerns linked to the practice of science and technology in the country. It’s high time for the government to acknowledge its importance and invest more in our scientists.