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Lawmakers call for passage of bill seeking to boost R&D spending

Two lawmakers have asked for support for a proposed law seeking to increase investment in research and development in the Philippines.

Senator Panfilo Lacson and Albay Representative Joey Salceda had separately filed bills that aim to institutionalize the Science for Change Program (S4CP), an initiative of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) that seeks to accelerate science, technology, and innovation (STI) in the country.

The proposed measure sets an initial annual budget of P21 billion for S4CP projects and activities. The budget shall then double yearly for the next four years.

“The agenda of the Science for Change program is clear – it allows us to be self-reliant, effective, and capable of harnessing R&D to resolve our challenges as a nation. In the face of a global health crisis, we need knowledge-driven solutions and evidence-based answers," Lacson was quoted as saying in a DOST press release.

“The bill outlines how our R&D investment will help improve every facet of the economy and our society. Our most important national problems: climate change, food security, and even the pandemic demand a scientific response," added Salceda, chairperson of the House ways and means committee and an economist.

One of the significant accomplishments under the program, the DOST said,  is the project with Herbanext Laboratories, Inc., managed under the Business Innovation through Science and Technology (BIST) for Industry sub-program of the S4CP. 

Through BIST, Herbanext plans to scale up their R&D technology to allow the local production of active pharmaceutical ingredients for the Philippine herbal drug industry. 

The DOST said some Ati communities in Negros Occidental are part of the groups harvesting herbal plants such as the tawa-tawa for Herbanext, doubling their profits as compared to their usual monthly income from gathering forest materials. 

Another sub-program of S4CP is the RDLead Program which aims to further develop and strengthen the research capabilities of the academe, research and development institutions (RDIs), and other government line agencies nationwide.

The RDLead Program already engaged 39 experts to assist 34 institutions in the country, the DOST said.

The Collaborative Research and Development to Leverage Philippine Economy (CRADLE), another sub-program of S4CP, has funded 70 academe-industry partnerships for R&D, with a total budget of nearly P320 million, it added.

The Niche Centers in the Region for R&D (NICER) Program, which provides institutional grants for higher education institutions in the regions, already has 35 R&D centers, spread out across the 17 regions, with a total funding of P1.7 billion, the DOST said.—AOL, GMA News