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Vol. XXVI, 3rd Quarter
July –September 2008

Progress through S&T in 20 years – GMA

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo delivered her keynote speech before an audience of dignitaries from the ASEAN member countries, the academes, and the local media during the twin celebration of the National and the ASEAN Science and Technology Week.

She stated that science and technology, as the foundation of future economic development, gears the country towards its vision of reaching first world countries in 20 years.

“Our Medium-Term Philippine Development Plan defines a strategy to further S&T and mobilize our advances through a four-pronged approach: first, enhancing the competitiveness of our human capital; second, developing a critical mass of scientists and R&D personnel; third, speeding up knowledge creation and dissemination to push productivity; and fourth, improving the mechanisms that promote technology-based entrepreneurship,” explained the President.

However, she stressed that the government is keen on solving the everyday problems of the average Filipinos by “bringing food to the table, and putting more money in poor people’s pockets so that they can afford the higher world price of food.” Through DOST’s programs that include the improvement of coconut productivity in the country which would translate to more employment to a million coconut farmers in the country.

The President also envisioned virgin coconut oil as a local substitute to olive oil. DOST has an ongoing research projects through its Industrial Technology Development Institute and the Ateneo University which aims to ensure internationally accepted vco products, and validate therapeutic claims from this coconut derivative.

She also boasted a coconut dyed dress made by another DOST attached agency, the Philippine Textile Research Institute, which she wore during the event.  “These are examples of how an indigenous product like coconut can make its mark in this modern day and age,” she added.

According to her, the science department received the highest budget increase this year totaling 51%. This amount will go to research and development that prioritizes food, agriculture, energy, public health, information and communication technology, and the environment, including disaster prevention.

Although the country is burdened by the rising imported products particularly oil and rice, the chief executive hoped that the country should compensate on its “hard” commodities such as prime products which are supplemented by its “soft” commodities like the Business Process Outsourcing which plays a major role in the country’s economy.

Metro Manila, the BPO hub of the country, is considered number two by the International Data Corporation’s list of Top 20 Outsourcing Cities in Asia and the Pacific. The country is now configured to operate the 24 next wave BPO centers which comprise Tuguegarao, Baguio, Dagupan, Urdaneta, Cabanatuan, Clark, San Fernando in Pampanga, Subic, Cainta, Bacoor, Santa Rosa, Lipa, Batangas City, Camarines Sur, Legazpi, Iloilo, Bacolod, Dumaguete, Cebu, Leyte, Cagayan de Oro, Davao and General Santos.

Adding to the modernized ICT facilities is the international broadband links of the two telecommunication giants, PLDT in La Union and Globe in Cagayan, which will ensure seamless internet connectivity even during calamities and disasters. “So, no tsunami nor earthquake, nothing will interrupt gateway services to the Philippines.” She explained.

“We look on science and technology to do many other things to put food on the table, to save lives and prevent calamities, to harness renewable and indigenous energy, to cure and prevent illnesses, and to create more high-quality jobs.” She averred.

The National Science and Technology Week is an annual celebration geared towards strengthening S&T in the country while the ASEAN Science and Technology Week happens every three years and hosting is rotated among ASEAN member countries. It aims to promote science and technology (S&T) development in the region by creating greater awareness of S&T, developing an S&T culture, as well as providing a medium for participation and collaboration in regional S&T programs.

Later in the ceremony, the President assisted DOST Secretary Estrella F. Alabastro in conferring this year’s winner of the ASEAN Outstanding Scientist and Technologist Award to Dr. Caesar A. Saloma of the Philippines, and to Dr. Lisa Ng Fong Poh of Singapore, winner of the ASEAN Young Scientist and Technologist Award.
(GMA’s speech in full text next page)