Senator Loren Legarda, chair of the Senate Committee on Finance, has committed its full support for the country's public higher education institutions (HEIs) primarily by providing adequate funds.
Speaking at the 50th Philippine Association of State Colleges and Universities (PASUC) General Assembly, Legarda underscored how important tertiary education is in today's highly competitive and technology-based world.
"We need to promote a culture of innovation to encourage creative thinking and knowledge creation and dissemination towards expanding and maintaining economic competitiveness. But in order to create an innovation ecosystem, we need to invest in higher education," she said.
Legarda said that the Philippines used to have the enviable status of being the second most progressive nation in Asia during the 1950s and early 1960s. It was a model of development, second only to Japan, and was envied as an industrial powerhouse and served as a manufacturing hub for many products - from consumer goods to medical products; cement; textile and fertilizers; automobiles, televisions, and home appliances; as well as steel, for shipbuilding.
Today, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation classifies the Philippines as an "innovation follower", which means it does not contribute significantly to the global innovation system.
"It also means we underinvest in scientific research, and are not willing to embrace needed reforms that could bolster our innovation potential. Being a mere follower is simply unacceptable, especially that the Filipino talent has contributed a number of game changing solutions to the world," she said.
Legarda underscored the need to invest in higher education in order to create an innovation ecosystem. "Our state universities and colleges (SUCs) need significant support, especially from the government, in conducting researches and projects that can keep pace with the best in the world, and we must not hesitate in investing in institutions that can in fact lead in research and development (R and D)."
As Chair of the Committee on Finance, Legarda has made significant strides to improve both access to and quality of higher education through increased funding for SUCs. Under the 2016 national budget, all SUCs received additional funding for academic buildings, equipment and the Tulong Dunong Program.
Under the 2017 national budget, the government has subsidized tuition fees for all SUCs to allow everyone the chance to earn a college degree. "We aim to institutionalize this through the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Bill, already approved by the Senate."
Legarda also encouraged enrolment in Science, Technology, Education, Agri-fisheries and Mathematics or STEAM programs by supporting the grant of scholarships to students enrolled in priority courses in all SUCs, since all progressive nations have put science and technology as a centerpiece of their development policy.
"Prioritizing the provision of state funds to scholars taking up STEAM courses, and other key growth areas such as electronics, business process outsourcing, tourism, general infrastructure and other priority manufacturing industries, will be vital in our effort to build a knowledge-based and innovation economy. I have always believed that giving the necessary financial support to SUCs will help produce a workforce that will support our industries and companies which, in turn, propel the country to inclusive growth and global competitiveness," she stressed.
For the 2018 budget, the Senator vowed to continue supporting our SUCs the best way she can.
"Our actions must be immediate and our efforts must be doubled for we are dealing with the future not only of our youth but of our nation," Legarda concluded.
Source: Senate of the Philippines