MANILA, NOVEMBER 2, 2007 (STAR) The United Kingdom recognizes the Philippines’ role as an important arena for scientific learning in the health sector especially in the face of rising cases of infectious diseases.

British Ambassador Peter Beckingham said Filipino scientists have helped in the identification of new pathogens and have joined the rest of the world in strengthening capacity for early detection and prevention, and in minimizing negative impact of infectious diseases.

“By pooling expertise from the UK and Southeast Asia, we take another step forward in the struggle to stay ahead of emerging scientific challenges by exploring new opportunities for working together as an international community,” Beckingham said.

The UK, a recognized world leader in scientific research and innovation, cited the unusually higher incidence of meningococcal infections, dengue hemorrhagic fever, leptospirosis, diarrhea and multidrug-resistant pathogens in tuberculosis and nosocomial infections.

Manila hosted recently an international workshop on the development and application of biosensors. High-caliber scientists and researchers from Britain and Singapore also took part in the workshop.

It was the second of a series of collaborations in the Philippines between British and Southeast Asian scientists in research and capacity-building efforts to address public health, security and environment.

The first UK-Philippines forum focused on overcoming the threats of emerging infectious diseases and pandemics, such as avian influenza, dengue, and malaria. A third workshop on renewable energy technologies will be held on Nov. 29-30. – Pia Lee-Brago

GMA committed to R&D promotion By Paolo Romero Thursday, November 1, 2007

President Arroyo said the government is doing its best to stop the exodus of Filipino scientists as she vowed to continue promoting research and development (R&D), which is vital to the country’s economic development.

In her speech read by Presidential Management Staff head Secretary Cerge Remonde at the International Conference on Research in Higher Education Institutions at the Waterfront Hotel in Cebu City recently, she said, “The vital role of scientific research and technological advancement in the growth and prosperity of nations is generally recognized.”

She said the government acknowledges the need to develop the country’s human capital for research.

“We need to build up our pool of scientists, engineers and researchers to keep pace with the UNESCO benchmark of 370 scientists, engineers and researchers per million population,” Mrs. Arroyo said.

“We also have to deal with the continuing migration of our science and technology professionals — our scientists, engineers, researchers and technicians who seek careers in other parts of the world,” she said.

She said nations, which devote proportionately larger investments in R&D, are also the dominant economic powers. “In other words, the biggest producers of knowledge are developed countries,” she said.

In fact, developed countries have been dedicating a considerable portion of their gross domestic product (GDP) to R&D, she said.

Singapore, she pointed out, has surpassed the UNESCO benchmark of one percent of GDP devoted to R&D for developing countries, with a Gross Domestic Expenditure on R&D equivalent to 2.15 percent of GDP.

To address the exodus of Filipino scientists, the country has to keep producing researchers by encouraging more students to pursue careers in science and technology, by improving the capacity of colleges and universities to deliver high-quality education, and by strengthening graduate education programs, she said.

She said one strategy that the government has adopted to address this concern is to provide scholarships to students and faculty in sciences, engineering and other priority disciplines.

Another tack is to establish and maintain strategic centers of excellence in these disciplines, she added.

To date, Mrs. Arroyo said the Commission on Higher Education has established nine Zonal Research Centers in various parts of the country and identified 54 Centers of Excellence in science, mathematics and information technology.

“My government is committed to increase expenditures for R&D and to develop our domestic capability for research. This year, we are investing P3 billion in science and engineering research and development technology, including scholarships for masteral and doctoral degree programs in engineering in selected universities,” she said.

The R&D thrusts identified by the country’s science and technology and education communities, in consultation with concerned sectors, are information and communication technology (ICT), biotechnology, alternative energy, health products and services, and environment, she said.

In addition to these R&D thrusts for sustainable development, the government is also encouraging research that would enable the higher education sector to produce the high-level expertise needed by the national innovation system, she said.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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