Sen. Grace Poe’s co-sponsorship speech on the Balik Scientist Bill

Mister President, I would like to extend my full support for Senate Bill Number 1533 under Committee Report Number 143, otherwise known as the proposed Balik Scientist Act.

As one of the authors and advocates of this measure, I would like to thank Senator Bam for prioritizing it among the many, many measures referred to his committee.

Mister President, a great man once said "If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants." That man was Isaac Newton, whose contributions to mathematics, physics, and astronomy made the modern world possible. Indeed, scientists are the unappreciated giants on whose shoulders we stand, and whose contributions are rarely appreciated.

Mister President, in economic terms, various academic papers estimate that a 1 percent increase in Research and Development ("R and D") expenditures leads to GDP increase between 0.2-0.7 percent, depending on the countries compared.

Many of the comforts we enjoy today--light bulbs, the internet, and air-conditioning--would not have been possible without the hundreds of scientists, engineers, and innovators who worked on them. In financial terms, it is a small investment with long-term returns.

Unfortunately, we are far beyond our ASEAN neighbors in terms of R and D investment. According to a paper by Dr. Jose Albert, we spend around 0.11 to 0.14% of our GDP on R and D. In contrast, Thailand spends around 0.21%; Malaysia spends 0.65 to 1%; and Singapore spends close to 2%.

Mister President, we have a substantial shortage in science and technology personnel due to our investment in R and D. According to the Department of Science and Technology, the presence of Research and Development personnel in the Philippines stands at 165 scientists per a million Filipinos - way below the (UNESCO) recommendation of 380 scientists per million persons. Even worse, outbound Science and Technology ("S and T") workers in the Philippines have increased 148% from 9,877 in 1998 to 24,502 in 2009.

It is clear that urgent intervention is needed to stop the "brain drain" of Filipino scientists from our country. These days, the phrase "Filipino scientist" is often accompanied by the words "working abroad." This trend must be reversed, and it will not do so by itself.

Mr. President, the proposed "Balik Scientist" is the first step towards welcoming our Filipino scientists back. In sum, it proposes a core set of incentives for all Filipino scientists, and additional incentives depending on their terms of engagement with the country. I think it is a good thing that the proposed incentives are too long to be mentioned here. The proposed terms of engagement range from 15 days to 6 months for the "Short-Term" engagement; 6 months to 3 years for the "Medium-Term" engagement; and up to 5 years for the "Long-Term" engagement.

If this measure is enacted, it will be another game changing social legislation which will bolster the legacy of the 17th Congress. I therefore call upon my colleagues in this chamber to throw their full and unconditional support to this bill. Let us be the first to roll the red carpet for our scientists. Our scientists deserve nothing less.

Source: Senate of the Philippines

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