Story & photo by Stephanie Tumampos
In the past 25 years Engr. Marcial Tanggaan, Bohol’s Department of Science and Technology (DOST) provincial director, and his team have been handling all the science and technology (S&T) projects of the government in the province.
From research to development to entrepreneurship, his office has responded diligently in order to reach those who need the aid of science in their lives as students, entrepreneurs or scientists.
He operates in the whole province of Bohol, which entails physical, mental and emotional demands. Yet, while other departments in the government have at least 10 personnel, Tanggaan has a team composed of seven personnel only, three of which are regular, with the rest as contractual.
“We started with only two regular personnel here in Bohol,” Tanggaan said in Visayan in an interview with the BusinessMirror.
The Provincial Science and Technology Center (PSTC) in Bohol, which, at more than 25 years that started in 1991, added one more regular personnel in 2016.
The PSTC Bohol staff has their hands full with a slew of projects. It is implementing the flagship program Small Enterprise Technology Upgrading Program (Setup), a nationwide strategy that aims to support and sustain the growth of micro, small and medium enterprises to adopt technology innovations in their businesses.
Setup currently has 44 beneficiaries in Bohol, with 14 more to be added this year.
Another project is the Community Empowerment through Science and Technology, which covers three municipalities and a projected three more.
On top of these, the PSTC in Bohol is monitoring over 300 DOST scholars in the province.
“We are at the frontline,” the PSTC Bohol director said. “All activities of the national [DOST] office fall on us, since we connect directly to our clients and beneficiaries.”
Push for upgrade through legislation
Under the current administration of President Duterte, one of the 10-point socioeconomic agenda is to promote S&T to enhance innovation and creative capacity toward inclusive development. This means Duterte wants to push S&T to the people.
Early this month Science Secretary Fortunato T. de la Peña and Bohol Rep. Erico Aristotle Aumentado, chairman of the Science and Technology Committee of the House of Representatives, led a publlic hearing in Bohol that discussed two bills.
The bill filed by Zamboanga del Sur Rep. Divina Grace Yu in July 2016, House Bill (HB) 1205, addresses the issue of staff upgrade in PSTC offices, as well as to elevate the position of the PSTC officer into PSTC director in provincial offices and their benefits. It was passed during the public hearing.
The other bill is the modernization of the National Measurement System (NMS), or the “Modernized National Measurement System Act”.
“We have to upgrade our provincial offices. This has been long overdue, and the support for our DOST [provincial offices] has been stagnant for many years,” Aumentado told the BusinessMirror in an interview.
He said this is the first time Republic Act 6959, which created PSTC, will be amended since 1990.
“There were many attempts [to amend the law] but these were not realized because of lack of support in Congress, in the committees, and lack of support from those who do not know the functions of [the]DOST in the communities and in the rest of the country.”
As chairman of the Committee, Aumentado said he knew how the agency has helped his constituents, especially the entrepreneurs in the country who needed S&T backing.
“It’s the DOST that can help our people in terms of scientific and technical innovation support. But they cannot cater to all of the Filipino people unless they have additional manpower,” he said.
He said Bohol “has only three regular personnel. We have 47 towns and one city. Three personnel cannot serve all the needs of the people.”
De la Peña shared the same concern. As DOST chief, he is aware of the current situation of the PSTCs in the provinces. With 81 provinces in the country, the need for more manpower is urgent.
“Ever since we started the operations in the provinces, in the early 1990s, the situation of our staffing compliment is still the same after 25 years, while the volume of services we have been offering to the provinces have expanded tremendously,” de la Peña told the BusinessMirror.
The policy of Duterte to bring services to the people, to the regions, to the provinces, “we really would like to do that”, he said. There are lots of things to do so the DOST can definitely bring science to the people, he said.
“This is the reason why we are asking to upgrade our PSTCs,”de la Peña said. The DOST chief compared the PSTCs to the offices of the other departments in government. “You can see the difference [in terms of staffing and physical offices],” he said.
He added that the DOST will have to work or generate more resources to implement its programs. “Although for now, we try to have solutions like hiring contractual workers, but this is not a long-term solution,” he said.
The bill on modernization of the NMS was introduced by Aumentado himself, together with Yu, Rep. Seth Jalosjos, Rep. Joey Salceda, Rep. John Nieto and Rep. Edward Perez.
It said the enactment of the bill would ensure the integrity of measurements in the country, meet regional and international requirements and provide support for the competitiveness of Philippine products and services through metrology.
Policy and legislation process
With the HB 1205 already passed in the public hearing and is now ready to be submitted to its mother committee, Aumentado said all the congressmen under his committee will have to approve it.
“[Afterward] we will present this [bill] to other committees, like Appropriation, Ways and Means, and Civil Service for comments and approval, since there should be coordination with the [concerned committees] for this bill.”
If approved at the committee level, the bill will be presented to the House plenary for approval. If approved, it will be sent to the Senate for the chamber’s action.
“[Sen.] Bam Aquino has the [complementary] bill and is supporting it,” he said.
“As long as this is approved within this term, it will be an easy [process to become a law],” Aumentado said.
The process will also be the same for the metrology bill.
As for Tanggaan, he said his staff will continue to work to serve their constituents through S&T despite their lack of manpower and more work load.
Although under a tough situation, Tanggaan told the BusinessMirror that the PSTC in Bohol has improved. He said the government must look deeper in the situation in other provinces, where PSTCs have lesser staff and equipment.
“In other provinces, the PSTCs need to be urgently upgraded,” Tanggaan said, citing that Bohol, a bigger province, “at least, we have an office that is presentable, and our transportation service, although old, is still running and its engine is working properly”.
Image credits: Stephanie Tumampos