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Vol. XXVI, 3rd Quarter
July –September 2008




Rodel G. Offemaria











Downtown or hinterland?

F renzied preparations and copious meetings often lasting hours and into the night and on weekends typify the long road to the Department of Science and Technology’s golden anniversary

July was more than festive. Memorable was the closest description. That’s because the science community celebrated not just a high point in its existence. More than its purported stiff collective persona, the community came alive with a mélange of creative sparkle. It was as if a liberation of the life-force that’s perceived to be almost always undemonstrative. But many people now know it’s on fire.

The Philippines through DOST also hosted the 8th ASEAN Science and Technology Week, a triennial event, alongside this year’s National Science and Technology Week commemoration.

The ASTW provides not just a glimpse of the state of S&T in ASEAN member-states. It is a reminder of where the country stands in the race to technology-based development in an increasingly knowledge-based regional economic relations. The event came on the eve of the historic adoption of the ASEAN Charter.

These twin events invite reflection.

After 50 years, how has DOST influenced the life and lifestyle of the average Filipino? How much value-added did it contribute to the economy? What industries could trace a significant element of their development to DOST’s knowledge output? What leading consumer products in the market came out directly from its R&D ouput? Which of the top 100 products or services that the Philippines require or use to run the economy have DOST pedigree? Which of the top 100 Philippine exports have such bloodline?

These are important questions in the face of imminent ASEAN economic integration. That’s because every Filipino micro, small, and medium enterprises will have to compete with their regional counterparts on cost, function, time to market, and total product value, among others. Essentially, the competition will expand tenfold.

In the same manner, the opportunities for Philippine firms will expand ten-fold. Apparently, speaking better English won’t be enough over the long haul, as the East Asians have shown.

The challenge for the Philippines to be a regional force trickles down to DOST. When the ASEAN Charter comes into force, as is likely, the possibilities break out over a market of 500 million people.

How the DOST picks up the challenge will define its place in history in the next 5-10 years. The technology cycle gets shorter, the competition furious.

Will it still be a minor agency and spawn a case study industry? Will it help RP be a regional downtown, or a hinterland?