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S&T in the Philippines: inputs and outputs

Reckoning from the establishment of the Bureau of Government Laboratories (now called the National Institute of Science and Technology), S&T in the Philippines was more than 50 years old when the first indictment of it was made. In a report submitted by the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Scientific Advancement, the following points were expressed:

1. Lack of coordination of research work.
2. Shortage of research funds.
3. Shortage of manpower and qualified teachers.
4. Lack of science consciousness.

In 1972, Reyes assessed the state of S&T in the Philippines in relation to other countries:

In spite of these efforts, our rate of scientific and technological progress has not been enough. A recent survey showed that the Philippines is still 40 to 60 years behind the United States; 35 to 40 years behind Russia; 30 to 40 years behind the United Kingdom, Sweden and Canada; 30 years behind West Germany and France; 20 to 25 years behind Norway and Australia; 20 years behind Poland, New Zealand and Japan. Dr Frank Co Tui, consultant to the SEATO Committee on Scientific Advancement, summed up the state of scientific and technological development in the country as "semi-primitive."17

Even in the 1970s the perception was that S&T in the Philippines was not being supported adequately. Reyes went on to claim that "Our expenditure in 1961 was 1/20 of 1 per cent of GNP and ten years later in 1970 it was 1/10 of 1 per cent."

A more quantitative assessment is possible through the use of some macro-indicators of technological capacity. Table 14 shows some of these indicators in relation to Japan and the Republic of Korea - two countries which are much more progressive than the Philippines. Table 16 exhibits a relative macro-indicator called the technology index. This is defined as the average of the sum of the number of patents and registration of new designs, technology trade, value added in manufacturing, and the export of technology-intensive goods. For inter-country comparison, the technology index for the US, the world's technology leader, is set at 100.

Table 14 suggests that in comparison to Japan and the Republic of Korea, the Philippines' serious deficiency is in what has been termed technological effort.18 This is reflected in a shortage of scientists and engineers doing R&D and of national resources devoted to R&D. The meagre expenditure in R&D is another facet of this weak technological effort. The corresponding outcome, as measured by patents, is, as expected, of minimal economic significance.

Some quantitative indicators of the inferior position of the Philippines with respect to the industrialized countries are depicted in table 16. The most serious is the negative value of technology trade, which is also reflected by the very low value for the export of technology-intensive goods. The overall negative value of the technology index represents the stark reality of the country's technological dependence. These indicators somehow convey the "technological distance" between the countries.

Table 16. International comparison of technology indices, 1982 (US$ billions)

  Number of patents and registration of new designs Technology trade Value added in manufacturing Export of technology- intensive goods (1) + (2) + (3) + (4)
(1) (2) (3) (4) 4
USA 57,889 7.5 642.3 109.2  
(100.0) (100.0) (100.0) (100.0) (100.0)
Japan 105,905 2.3 321.1 91.4  
(182 9) (30.9) (50.0) (83.7) (86.9)
Federal Republic of Germany 16,306 1.4 244.5 103.5  
(28.2) (18.7) (38.1) (94.8) (45.0)
UK 29,590 1.8 124.9 42.3  
(51.1) (24.4) (19.4) (38.7) (33.4)
France 23,944 1.3 154.3 43.3  
(41.4) (17.1) (24.0) (39 6) (30.5)
Republic of Korea 4,512 0.3 21.1 8.7  
(7 8) (3 7) (3.3) (7 9) (5 7)
Philippines 449a -0.3b 9.3c 1.4d  
(0.8) (0.4) (1.5) (1.3) (-0.1)

Source: Korea Development Bank. For the Philippines, information on patents is from the Philippine Patent Office (figure for 1983), on technology trade from the NEDA Statistical Yearbook, 1985, and on value added from the World Bank, World Development Report, 1986 (figure for 1983).

a. Figure represents total exports of selected technology-intensive goods less total import of capital goods for 1983.

Table 17. Filipino technological capabilities

Type of technology First-wave technologies Second-wave technologies Third-wave technologies
Materials technologies Replicative in most, adaptive in some Operative in some, adaptive in others Pre-operative in most, operative in some
Equipment technologies Replicative in most, innovative in some Operative in most, adaptive in some Pre-operative in most, adaptive in few
Energy technologies Replicative in most, innovative in some Adaptive in most, replicative in some Pre-operative in most, operative in some
Information technologies Replicative in most, innovative in some Operative in some, adaptive in others Pre-operative in most, adaptive in some
Life technologies Replicative in most, innovative in some Adaptive in some, replicative in others Pre-operative in most, adaptive in a few

A more detailed but qualitative assessment is made possible by using the S&T taxonomical matrix (table 1) and the notion of stages of technological capability. The assessment of S&T in the Philippines is shown in table 17. The evaluation was based on the results of the case-studies and the general knowledge of the Philippine situation.

A more precise definition of what it means to be an agricultural country is apparent in table 17, where it is shown that replicative and even innovative capabilities exist for all first-wave technologies. This is perhaps the result of the decades of education and research in Philippine agriculture. Unfortunately, however, agriculture cannot reach full efficiency with a weak second-wave technology. Philippine agriculture is still dependent on foreign inputs (fertilizers, pesticides, and processing technologies); there are some adaptive capabilities in equipment and information technologies, but the country is hardly in the game as far as most of the others are concerned.

Table 18. Distribution of NSTA-SPI awardees by field of study as of May 1984a

  Agricultural and natural sciences Biological sciences Medical sciences Physical sciences Engineering sciences Mathematical sciences Social sciences Total


Math Bio Physics Chem. Gen. sci. Total Total
Degree Programmes
Undergraduate 64 338 - 628 802 594 22 2,448 229 - 182 - 68 479 2,927
Master'sb 91 222 64 201 77 76 23 754 183 73 94 56 101 507 1,261
Doctoral 10 6 - 12 7 18 1 54 - - - - - - 54
Short-term training programmes for teachers
Summer science institutesc - - - - - - - 2,640 1.401 1,081 2,318 3,086 10,526 10.526  
Certification programme - - - - - - - 14 24 11 19 5 73 73  
Total 165 566 64 841 886 688 46 3,256 3.066 1,498 1,368 2,393 3,260 11,585 14,841

a. Prepared by Scientific Manpower and Institutional Development Division, Science Promotion Institute.
b. Includes graduate research fund grantees.
c. Awardees during the period 1971-1983.

Of course, Philippine S&T is not without its achievements. Appendix 2 lists the most significant accomplishments of the NSTA. Since there is very little R&D going on in the private sector, this list is indicative of the entire S&T system of the Philippines.

The large variety of research points to the lack of focus and dispersal of the already meagre funds for R&D. It is fair to say that none of these accomplishments is outstanding in the international sense. Mission-oriented R&D that is directed to specific nationally significant problems has not been addressed. In the case of geothermal energy, for instance, the lead in the exploration technology should have been carried further downstream to include the development of local capability in actual geothermal power generation. This, together with the uses of geothermal steam, could have been planned as a mission-oriented programme. The same could be said for biogas and alcohol projects.

The strong historical bias for agricultural R&D is also apparent. Industrial research has been quite inadequate. As we have pointed out, the weakness in industrial capability ultimately weakens the agricultural sector also.

The scholarship programme of the government is intended to address the weakness of S&T in respect of manpower. The result of the programme is summarized in table 18. Although the programme was probably constrained by lack of financial resources, this kind of output will not permit the Philippines ever to catch up with the internationally set norms for manpower requirements. Technological capacity in terms of R&D manpower per 10,000 population has remained fairly static during the last few years.

Philippine R&D has no detectable impact on the national economy. This is intimated by table 3, which shows no systematic increases in the growth rates of either agriculture or industry over the years. Significant and successful innovations could have spurred growth in these sectors. The observed changes in the growth rates are perhaps the short-term effects of economic policy measures. In comparative terms, table 19 shows the performance of the Philippines and other Asian countries. The average growth rate of agriculture is comparable to that of others, including the Republic of Korea, but the Philippines has a comparatively slower growth rate in industry.

The distorted emphasis of Philippine R&D in agriculture does not show any significant effect in productivity. According to table 20, the period 1971-1978 is the lowest for the economic sectors. In other words, agricultural R&D made little difference to agricultural labour productivity. In contrast, while there has been no significant research in industrial R&D, productivity in this sector shows the largest annual growth rate. This could have been due to the introduction of imported technological innovations.

Table 19. Annual growth rates of major sectors of real GDPa (simple average: percentages)

  Agriculture Industry
(1971-84) (1971-84)
Indiab 1.6c 4.0c
Republic of Korea 3.6d 12.6
Philippines 3.9 5.8
Thailand 3.9e 7.3e

Source: Key Indicators of Developing Member Countries of Asian Development Bank, April 1985.

a. Gross Domestic Product.
b. GDP data are at factor cost.
c. 1971-1982.
d. 1971-1983.
e. 1973-1984.

Table 20. Labour productivitya


Labour productivity (pesos per worker)

All sectors Agriculture Industry Services
1957 2,980 1,740 4,320 5,280
1971 3,620 2,370 5,170 4,640
1978 4,200 2,420 7,390 5,180

Annual growth rates of labour productivity (percentages)

1971-78 2,120 0.300 5.100 1.570

Source: R.L. Tidalgo and E. Esguerra, "Philippine Employment in the 1970s," PIDS Working Paper 82-02, table A-6.

a. Output per person employed is estimated by dividing national income (in millions of pesos) at 1972 prices by employment in thousands.

One major factor that could somehow explain the lacklustre performance of the R&D system is the extremely low funding levels. Although there has never been a lack of bold policy statements about the support of S&T, the realization of policy is in the actual allocation of resources. In the case of S&T, there is a wide gap between policy and practice.

Although other government agencies and the private sector are also involved in S&T activities, the budget of the NSTA adequately reflects national trends of expenditure for S&T and R&D. In the Philippines the R&D expenditure of the private sector is negligible. In the case of other government agencies, the definitions "S&T" and "R&D" are very obscure and doubtful.

Fig. 12. NSTA general budget, 1974-1985 (index year: 1974)

In general, the outlay for NSTA has been decreasing in relative and absolute terms during the last 10 years. Figure 12 gives the NSTA budget, using 1974 as the best year to correct for inflation. The sudden increase in 1983 was due the reorganization of the NSTA. Some new agencies were created and some old ones were attached to the NSTA. As shown in figures 13 and 14, there were no real increases in R&D outlay. In fact, there was a downward trend in the appropriations for R&D. These figures portray the sad reality behind the encouraging commitment of policy makers to S&T.

Table 21 shows the divergence between dream and reality. On the basis of the plan to attain a level of S&T expenditure of about 2 per cent of GDP by 1988, the annual financial requirements of NSTA were calculated. The expected annual appropriations were estimated on the basis of the historical funding increases granted by the Office of Budget Management (OBM). The last line on the table shows an expected growing shortfall. Unfortunately, the prospects for the next three years (1987-1989) are definitely much worse. In real terms, the budget of the NSTA will probably decrease.

Table 21. NSTA resource projections, 1984-1988

  1984 1985 1986 1987 1988
GDP (billions of pesos)a 461.6 530.9 610.5 702.1 807.4
S&T allocation (% of GDP)b 1.0 1.5 1.8 2.0 2.0
S&T allocation (billions of pesos) 4.6 8.0 11.0 14.0 16.2
Private sector share of no.3 (%)b 15 20 20 25 25
Government share of no.3 (%)b 3,918 6,368 8,784 10,530 12,113
NSTA share of no.6 (millions of pesos)c 823 1,337 1,845 2,211 2,544
Projected OBM allocation 683 751.3 826.4 909.0 999.9
Estimated requirements of NSTA agencies (million of pesos) 1,083.3 1,112.3 1,189.7 1,106.2 1,166.4

Source: EVSA.

a. Assumed to grow at 15 per cent annually from the 1982 level of P349 billion, at 5 per cent real growth and 10 per cent inflation.
b. Indicated in the National S&T Plan.
c. Historical average.
d. Arbitrary increase of 10 per cent annually from the amounts requested for 1984.

Fig. 13. R&D allotment of the NSTA, 1974-1985 (index year: 1974)

Fig. 14. R&D allotment of the NSTA, 1974-1984

Like most established bureaucracies in the Philippines, the NSTA has grown organizationally. Starting out as a National Science Board in 1956, it transformed itself into a National Science and Technology Authority in 1983, attaching and creating agencies in the process. The elaborate structure of NSTA is shown in figure 5. By 1987, the NSTA was once more transformed into a Department of Science and Technology. The NSTA does not have an exclusive mandate over the nation's S&T. The network depicted in figure 4 is a complex bureaucratic system which is supposed to nurture the creative enterprise of scientific and technological R&D. The situation is that there are just too many agencies, and the number is growing, making demands on a shrinking S&T pie.

It is very unlikely that things will change for the better soon. Under the new Aquino government, the usual syndrome of big words and short delivery are already apparent. The NSTA are making bold new national S&T plans, seemingly undeterred by the 30-year history of dismal funding. A recent policy paper (1986) listed an array of S&T "development strategies": there are 14 in agriculture, 7 in health, 14 in industry and energy, 5 in S&T capability and development structure, and 4 in natural hazards and environment. All these are supposed to be implemented with a budget of 93 million pesos. The document is a strange mishmash of meaningless epithets from the lexicon of previous policy exercises by NSTA. Meanwhile the inherent weakness of endogenous technology continues to worsen.

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