Salceda: Science for Change Act to put PH back as R&D hub in Asean region

The Science for Change Act, recently approved by the House Science Committee, will help ensure a conducive ecosystem for scientific and technological development in the country, as global wealth becomes increasingly built on technological advances.

Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda, the bill’s principal author, said he wants the Philippines to become “the leading hub for research and development in the region, the way it used to be, when top research agencies like the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), tech manufacturers like the Texas Instruments, and others used to see the Philippines as the place to be in the (Asean) region.”

“We can do it again,” said Salceda, chair of the House Ways and means and principal author of game changing economic reforms such as the recently passed Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE) Act.

“One problem is we did not pay enough attention and dedicate resources over the years to Science and Technology. Among the largest ASEAN economies, only Indonesia spends less than we do as a share of its GDP on research and development,” he noted.

Salceda said the Philippines “spends only around 0.16% of our GDP on research and development. Vietnam spends nearly three times that at 0.44%. Singapore takes the lead among all ASEAN countries at 2% of GDP on R&D. It seems economic development is highly correlated with research spending, and for good reason, because knowledge builds the wealth of nations,” he added.

Salceda’s bill creates a Harmonized National Research and Development Agenda (HNRDA), expands key programs of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), dedicates a Science for Change Fund, mandates the adoption by government agencies of state-supported technological developments, and fosters private-public partnerships for science.

“We need an ecosystem for science and technology in the country. Technology has always driven development throughout human history. If we stay behind in investments in science, we will remain behind in economic development. The formula is so simple,” Salceda stressed.

The Science for Change bill also mandates that government eventually spend 2% of the budget on science and technology, which fits and compliments the CREATE Act.

“CREATE and the Science for Change bill are complementary. CREATE gives huge incentives to research and development, and allows a double deduction of R&D expenses of registered firms from their gross income. If you are a research hub, as many global companies do have these facilities, you will probably pay almost nothing in tax, since your expenses are primarily research,” Salceda explained.

“I will see to it that working with the DOST qualifies as double deductions for research. We will be drafting the implementing rules and regulations of CREATE with the Department of Finance (DOF) shortly. I will see to it that working with DOST for the Science for Change programs already in place will be creditable under the incentives program in CREATE,” he added.

“I’m also asking investment promotion agencies (IPAs) to promote the Philippines as a research hub. Among all industries we can invite, research hubs are probably the most useful for technology transfer and long-term development. If our youth can learn and be hired in these research hubs, we will have a generation of inventors, entrepreneurs, and builders who will create the future,” Salceda said.

The Science for Change bill is now pending at the House Committee on Appropriations.