MANILA While President Rodrigo Duterte recently signed the Balik Scientist bill into a law, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) is still pushing for three more priority bills.
In an exclusive interview with the Philippine News Agency (PNA) on Friday afternoon, DOST Secretary Fortunato Dela PeAa said these priority bills are the establishment of the Philippine Space Agency, the Nuclear Regulation bill, and a bill for the upgrade of DOST regional offices.
As early as 2016, Dela PeAa had said the government would invest substantially in space technology development for the next 10 years, emphasizing that among the benefits of space technology is helping the communities to be more resilient, since it can give early warnings when threatened by natural disasters, and also monitor the status of the country's agricultural production.
The DOST has created a National Space Development Program, focusing on national security and development, space research and development, hazard management, and climate studies.
"It is important to have an agency, which will handle this program. So far, several agencies under the DOST like the ASTI (Advanced Science and Technology Institute), as well as UP (University of the Philippines), handle this program," the DOST chief explained.
With regard to the Nuclear Regulation bill or the "Comprehensive Nuclear Regulation Act, he said this is among the priorities because nuclear regulation and nuclear research and development (R and D) must be separated.
"That is the practice worldwide," he added.
The bill seeks the creation of a unified regulatory body for all activities involving sources of ionizing radiation.
Based on the DOSTPhilippine Nuclear Research Institute's (PNRI) website, its existing regulatory and promotional functions are "potentially conflicted and not in agreement with international nuclear best practices.
As for the upgrade of DOST provincial offices, Dela PeAa shared he is pushing for this because the staff in regional offices does not receive equal salary. There are some regions getting lower salary compared with the others, he remarked.
Dela PeAa added that the staff ratio in some regional offices is also low, and this bill would address that problem.
Balik Scientist Law
Meanwhile, Dela PeAa said having the Balik Scientist Law is a huge help for the agency to attract more "Balik Scientists, since the law would assure them of the benefits or incentives they will get from the government.
"It's a big help because now, they (scientists) can hold on to the fact that Balik Scientist is now a law and not just a DOST program," he said.
Balik Scientists are science and technology experts residing abroad and who are contracted to return to the Philippines to work and use their expertise in the country. The Balik Scientist Law provides them with assistance and incentives from the government.
"(With this law), we could also tap the Department of Foreign Affairs and embassies to help our scientists to return home," he said.
Dela PeAa earlier told the PNA that the DOST is eyeing 235 more Balik Scientists until 2022.
Since the Balik Scientist Program's establishment in 1975 up to December 2017, the Philippines has had a total of 567 Balik Scientists.
The agency targets 41 Balik Scientists in 2018, and increase this number by three each year until 2022, Dela PeAa said.
He also mentioned previously that he projects around 60 Balik Scientists per year after the program becomes a law. (PNA)
Source: Philippine News Agency