Scientists urge more Filipino culture in ASEAN 2015 trade agenda

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By Anna Valmero

MANILA CITY, METRO MANILA— Local scientists are urging the Department of Science and Technology (DoST) to integrate Filipino culture in the crafting of the Philippine strategy for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) 2015 agenda.

The ASEAN 2015 agenda aim to establish the ASEAN Economic Community, allowing for free trade and economic cooperation in the region to achieve global competitiveness.

“We should also invest in the development of our socio-cultural capital because our social scientists say there is a strong link between culture and national development,” said Dr. Alvin Culaba, president of the National Research Council of the Philippines (NRCP).

“Therefore, it is imperative to consider Filipino habits in the ASEAN 2015 competitiveness strategy,”

During the council’s 78th annual membership assembly, Culaba handed to DoST Secretary Mario Montejo the NRCP’s recommendations and plan of action for ASEAN competitiveness.

The strong focus on short-term plans is one of the “cultural habits” that must be incorporated when setting priorities for the Philippines medium-term strategy before 2015.

“If what we are good in implementing short-term plans, then let us realize long-term goals such as developing or nurturing 1,000 scientists in three years by aiming for 300 new scientists who will stay in the country for the next year and another 300 next year, until we hit the goal,” said Culaba.

While continuity of projects among succeeding administrations is ideal, reality showed that most projects in the country depend on the agenda of the present administration.

Culaba urges President Benigno Aquino III to study the good science and technology projects of the past administration such as good human resource development for continuation.

Culaba said other unique Filipino practices such as the mañana habit, or the habit to leave tasks unfinished for later, and ningas-kugon,or the sudden loss of interest after enthusiastically starting a project, also influence the implementation of local projects. Hence, the need to consider them in project implementation and formulation of deadlines.

Development and nurturing talents in the field of science and technology is also important to address the Filipino diaspora in search for “greener pastures” abroad, said Culaba.

Contrary to popular belief, he said there are other factors that will make Filipino scientists stay in the country aside from large salaries.

“These include a good working environment, laboratories for research, incentives and recognition, and benefits such as housing and socialized tuition fees for their children. Naturally, scientists want to stay here because their families are here and more so, if conditions for their work allow them an avenue for growth,” enumerated Culaba.

The scientist added that other NRCP recommendations for ASEAN 2015 include the following: improving the capacity of colleges for graduate programs in science and engineering, harness indigenous knowledge and to integrate ASEAN awareness in basic education without expanding the curriculum.

Other recommendations include further studies on urban flooding considering future changes in land use due to urbanization and climate change; development of biofuel energy sources such as malunggay, cassava, Jatropha species; and climate change adaptation.

Caluba is also advocating an increase in research funds from DOST, from the current P6.5 million to P60 million, in a bid to increase support for local research and encourage scientists to stay here.

Montejo, a technopreneur and advocate of local technologies, vowed to study the proposals of NRCP.The DOST chief added that innovation through science and technology is the key to economic development in the Philippines.

Caluba said they are expecting a sit-down meeting with DOST in the next few weeks.

Get more information about the NRCP

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