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S&T academic sector calling for reforms in the system

With the Philippines lagging behind the global innovation index—ranking 90 out of the 142 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) countries as of latest report—the science and technology academic sector is calling for a tweak in the system to further address its setbacks.

Innovation in general, according to National Academy of Science and Technology president William G. Padolina, is a “certain state of rational well-being,” and the national innovation system is keyed into several factors of sociocultural, political and economic environment. The country, however, is still facing the challenges to read—and respond to—the needs of the market.

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“Singapore has a smaller population, but it came first among all Asean countries,” Padolina said. “It goes to show that we are not tapping our ‘actors’ in innovation.”

Citing records from the Asean Secretariat Macroeconomic Database, Padolina also noted that although the Philippines has progressed in numbers on gross domestic product (GDP) per capita, it is still behind most of the Asean countries.

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“It is possible to move up the scale, but it’s best to address the problems,” he said. “Economic growth [can be] enhanced by new technology.”

Talent deficiency

In the Philippines, Padolina said there are only 78 researchers per one million people and the talent deficiency may be caused by work-related factors such as better compensation from other industries.

As for promoting research and development through publications, he said the number of scientific and technical articles published is also not faring well, limiting the engagement of people to the field.

Padolina added poverty and labor productivity to the list of problems, saying “we are not alleviating poverty… [and] we are not as productive as we are when we are outside the country.” Data shows labor productivity of the Philippines is second to the last in Asia, together with Indonesia. He said the two countries are also the least improved among the low-productivity countries.

As for products, specifically on agri-food, the country has high rejection rates on agri-food exports to the United States and European Union.

“The worst-case scenario is when you’ll end up buying suman in Jakarta,” Padolina quipped. “Something is not doing well and it’s not due to only one problem.”

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But even with all the problems posed, Padolina said there are solutions already existing that should be improved to help alleviate all these.

Raising the bar in R&D

The Philippine-California Advance Research Institutes project, for one, is a capacity-building project for Philippine higher education institutions. Padolina said through information infrastructure development, health innovation and translational medicine, research and scholarships funded by the government and United States Agency for International Development, and research partnerships, the country could “raise the bar in research and development.”

For the government, especially with the 2016 elections nearing, Padolina said there should be a change on the tariff input on farms, the policies on land reforms and the ability to operate. Improving irrigation is also a must to move forward.

He added that technological-vocational courses should also be focused on since we lack technicians and associate professionals, clerks, service and market sales workers, and skilled agricultural and fishery workers, among others.

Padolina said that the country’s progress on research and development depends on enhancing the talent pool, and confronting or accepting the complexities of governance by coming up with responsive policies that can be applied and appreciated by different sectors.

“We have to establish an environment that they (innovators) will like. The government is doing its best but there is still room for improvement because we should get out of one-size-fits-all approach and treat research and higher education in a very different way,” he said.

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TAGS: ASEAN, health and science, innovations, reforms, Science and Technology
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