Jul 21, 2014

Phillipines - Higher R&D spend may help PHL in Asean integration bid

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THE Philippines can ably compete in the impending integration of the economies of the Association of the Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) if the government pours more money for research and development (R&D), government rice researchers said.

The country “has to sharply scale up investments” in R&D to compete in the Asean Economic Community, the Philippines Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) said in a statement over the weekend. The government-funded group cited a recent study by three University of the Philippines professors as the basis of their call.

“If increased investment in R&D is achieved along with other ongoing policies and institutional reforms, the country’s economy could in time be on a stronger platform to hurdle Asean challenges. This will [reduce the blow] in [the] agricultural and manufacturing sectors,” PhilRice quoted the authors of the study as saying.

In their study Ernesto Pernia, Ramon Clarete and Gisela Padilla-Concepcion noted: “Economic growth can be effectively sustained by spending for technological innovation that results in new processes, products and markets, and innovation in turn can come about from R&D made possible by economic growth.”

In their paper titled “the Role of Science, Technology and Research in Economic Development,” the top academicians said “substantial investments in R&D are the drivers of sustained rapid growth and poverty reduction of East Asian economies.”

They cited these economies as Taiwan, South Korea and Hong Kong, “whose pattern is also followed by the Philippines’s Asean co-founding members particularly Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia.”

Underinvestment in Philippine R&D, they said, could neither meet the country’s present requirements nor the challenges posed by the Asean integration push.

PhilRice also cited an earlier study of current National Economic and Development Authority Director General Arsenio M. Balisacan, which says that “in agriculture, R&D contributes to 25-percent yield growth in rice and that the country needs to increase its public spending on rice R&D.”

An attached agency of the Department of Agriculture, PhilRice also noted “the rather slow-paced improvement in public spending on R&D in the Philippines relative to other countries from 1996 to 2008.”

PhilRice cited as bases the 2013 report of the International Food Policy Research Institute based in Washington, D.C., and the Bangkok-based Asia-Pacific Association of Agricultural Research Institutions.

Vietnam is reported to have increased its public spending on R&D by over 270 percent, from $23 million to $86 million while the Philippines’s spending showed only a 3- percent increase from $129 million to $133 million.

Alladin S. Diega

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