House to prioritize science for change bill—Salceda

The House of Representatives has prioritized the Science for Change Program (S4CP) bill, authored by Rep. Joey S, Salceda of  Albay, when it resumes sessions in July. Speaker Pantaleon D. Alvarez has initiated the move.

House Bill 4581 or S4CP, which the House Committee on Science and Technology has already approved, aims to accelerate investments in science and technology (S&T) and boost scientific innovations and inventions, and research and development to further enhance the country’s global competitiveness.

Salceda, who authored the S4CP in collaboration with the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and the country’s S&T—research and development community (R&D), also principally authored two other urgent measures both considered game changers—the Universal Access to Tertiary Education, now awaiting President Duterte’s signature; and the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (Train), the government’s comprehensive tax reform package now with the bicameral committee.

The S4CP measure, also dubbed as “Science for the People”, has a proposed P21-billion R&D budget next that will more or less double yearly over the next five years, and could reach P672 billion in 2022. The country’s total R&D budget for 2017 is only P5.8 billion.

Addressing the recent graduation rites of the University of the Philippine’s National Institute of Physics (NIP) Class 2017, Salceda cited the crucial role scientists and researchers play in the country’s race for global competitiveness.

He urged the NIP graduates and professors to support S4CP and challenged them to “take your success to the next level…having reached another milestone, one that equipped you with knowledge and understanding, as you will face more challenges ahead.”

Two factors have triggered Salceda’s S4CP formulation—the Unesco assessment that there is a critical need to increase the country’s number of researchers, scientists and engineers; and the hiked DOST budget, which includes higher allocations for the Philippine Science High School and DOST’s Science Education Institute.

S4CP has four components—program expansion in seven areas, new programs in six areas, grand plan for S&T HRD and accelerated R&D program for capacity building of R&D institutions and industrial competitiveness.

Salceda said among the new program areas where NIP and its graduates can play a significant role are Human Security R&D (NIP has expertise in terahertz technology); Strengthening R&D in the regions; and Artificial intelligence.