DAVAO CITY – A partylist lawmaker said the Department of Science and Technology should get more funds to improve agriculture and food production in the country.
During the budget hearing at the House of Representatives on Thursday, Bayan Muna Partylist Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate questioned the DOST on the state of basic research and innovations to improve agricultural and food production in the country.
DOST Secretary Mario Montejo claimed that its research and development budget needs an additional P5 billion for 2016 but it was not approved by DBM.
Zarate, in an emailed statement, said that the “insufficiently funded DOST could get more funds if the P30 billion funds allotted for the onerous Risk Management Program is scrapped and deleted from the proposed P3-trillion 2016 budget.”
“In the first place, the Risk Management Program should be scrapped because it is only used by the government to pander big private contractors and concessionaires through the so-called sovereign guarantee pledges. These billions should be used instead to pave the way for our country to develop our science and technological sector; for more research and development programs,” Zarate said.
Zarate said there is a lack of basic research to improve food production, which should have been the focus of the department.
“For example, biotechnology was the among the core programs of the DOST in the past. Rightly so, because food security and agricultural productivity to help farmers must be among the government’s top concerns. However, we are lagging behind Asian countries in food production, and continue to import our prime staple, rice,” he said.
Zarate also said “the country’s lack of a national industrialization plan is at the base of our backwardness in science and technology.”
“Other countries are exploring deep space, while our farmers are still using carabaos to plow their lands, ” Zarate said.
He also said the country’s scientists and technologists are leaving the country “because of the lack opportunities.”
“The slash on the science and technology budget is reflective of the disinterest of the government to prioritize the sector,” he said.
He said the government allots P62.3 billion budget for the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) also known as the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) in the 2015 General Appropriations Act, while DOST got P17.5 billion. (davaotoday.com)