MANILA, February 24, 2006
 (STAR) STAR SCIENCE By Gisela Padilla-Concepcion, Ph.D. - Last week, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and several members of Congress received documents prepared by members of the Philippine-American Academy of Science and Engineering (PAASE) concerning PAASE’s appeal to increase the science and technology budget of the Philippine government. PAASE, a non-profit organization that was founded by a small group of Filipino scientists and engineers in the United States in 1980, has grown in recent years to over 180 members, now with a significant number based in the Philippines.

The campaign is being led by local PAASE members affiliated with leading academic institutions in the country. Several foreign-based PAASE members are coming home until early March to join local PAASE members in meetings with government officials. Following is PAASE’s letter to President Arroyo:

February 15, 2006

Dear President Arroyo:

We are members of the Philippine-American Academy of Science and Engineering (PAASE), an association of scientists and engineers, Filipinos or of Philippine descent, working in the United States, in the Philippines and in other countries. We teach and do research in colleges and universities; we work in industrial laboratories and in governmental and international institutions.

One of the primary objectives of PAASE is to promote contacts and collaborations among Filipino scientists the world over and to help the Philippines in her efforts to establish and maintain a level of activity in science and engineering, in teaching and in research, commensurate to the needs and aspirations of our country. There are now regular contacts between members based in the Philippines and members based abroad, and a number of collaborative projects have been in operation for a number of years. Annual meetings and symposia of PAASE have been held in the Philippines as well as in the United States. Some of us met with you during two of our meetings in the Philippines. These annual meetings have served to put Filipino scientists from different parts of the world in contact with each other, and have become opportunities for exploring possible scientific collaborations. Scientists based in the Philippines who have held postdoctoral positions in the laboratories of members based abroad have gone home to establish their own laboratories where they maintain thriving research programs. Some foreign-based members regularly return to the Philippines to teach in Philippine universities and/or work with their Philippine-based colleagues. There are now publications in international research journals co-authored by Filipino scientists based in different countries.

These private initiatives, undertaken by individual scientists, are hardly enough. Much more needs to be done to bring our research climate to a level comparable to that in neighboring countries. A recent study by the Asian Institute of Management (R. E. Escobar, "Philippine Science and Technology: Environmental scanning of domestic and global issues," AIM Policy Center) revealed that Thai scientists publish roughly three times as many scientific articles as their Filipino counterparts; Malaysian scientists, some two-and-a-half times more. Under favorable circumstances, however, Filipino scientists have shown themselves to be extremely productive. The publication records of PAASE members who find themselves in supportive research environments attest to this.

It is for this reason that we appeal to you for help, knowing your stature as a social scientist and an economist yourself. The current level of expenditure for research and development (R&D) in the Philippines is insufficient to support a research enterprise that is anywhere near commensurate to the needs of the country. The 2001 level of R&D spending was 0.078 percent of GDP, even lower than the 1992 level of 0.2 percent. In contrast, in 2001, Thailand and Malaysia spent 0.27 percent and 0.49 percent of their respective GDPs on R&D.

These differences in R&D funding levels are ultimately reflected in various measures of productivity. In 2000, the number of patents awarded to Philippine residents (per thousand R&D personnel) was 3.5. The corresponding numbers for Malaysia and Thailand are 7.1 and 81.3, respectively. These disparities translate into disparities in the production of goods and services and ultimately in such measures of economic vitality as the GDP growth rate. According to the World Bank, in 2004, the Philippine per capita GDP was US$1,170; the corresponding figures for Thailand and Malaysia are US$2,540 and US$4,650, respectively.

Official data show that while Philippine GDP growth rate per capita was a meager one percent per annum during 1991-2003 (following -0.5 percent GDP per capita growth in the 1980s), the corresponding growth rates in Malaysia and Thailand were about 3.5 percent.

Current Philippine expenditures for R&D are way below the medium-term target of 1.0 percent of GDP set by the DOST’s National Science and Technology Plan, which expressed the hope of attaining this target in 2010.

We ask that you increase the government support for research in science and technology to 0.5 percent of GDP by 2010. This represents only half of the National Science and Technology Plan target for 2010, but it would be a tremendous start. These additional funds could be coursed through the DOST which would allocate funds through its usual research grant funding processes. An increase in research allocation would also have an immediate impact on science and technology education at the tertiary level as well as on the training of young research scientists, and will certainly provide incentives for trained researchers to stay in the Philippines rather than seek opportunities abroad.

We offer ourselves to help in any way we can. We realize that there are other needs demanding immediate attention, but this is a critically needed investment in the future of the country that we can no longer afford to postpone.

Respectfully yours,
Members of PAASE

* * *

Gisela Padilla-Concepcion, Ph.D. is an associate professor at the Marine Science Institute, UP Diliman, where she teaches graduate courses and has research projects on bioactive marine natural products and related biomedical research. She is a PAASE board member. E-mail her at

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved