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The Philippines has to sharply scale up investments in research and development (R&D) to compete in the ASEAN Economic Community, University of the Philippines (UP) professors said.

Dr. Ernesto Pernia, Dr. Ramon Clarete, and Dr. Gisela Padilla-Concepcion stressed that “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 that substantial investments in R&D are the drivers of sustained rapid growth and poverty reduction of East Asian economies, such as Taiwan, South Korea, and Hong Kong, whose pattern is also followed by the Philippines` ASEAN co-founding members particularly Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia.

Underinvestment in Philippine R&D, they said, could not meet the country`s present requirements together with the challenges posed by the ASEAN integration.

Based on the data from the 2009 World Competitiveness Yearbook, the Philippines allocated only 0.12% of its GDP to R&D while Malaysia and Thailand allocated 0.64% and 0.20%, respectively.

“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 agricultural and manufacturing sectors,” the UP professors said.

The National Economic and Development Authority Chief Arsenio Balisacan, meanwhile, said that in agriculture, R&D contributes to 25% yield growth in rice and that the country needs to increase its public spending on rice R&D.

Furthermore, 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 shows the rather slow-paced improvement in public spending on R&D in the Philippines relative to other countries from 1996 to 2008.

Vietnam is reported to have increased its public spending on R&D by over 270%: from $23M to $86M. The Philippines` spending, on the other hand, showed only a 3% increase from $129M to $133M.

Meanwhile, the ASEAN integration is set to be in full effect by end of 2015 where all goods, capital and labor can freely flow across national borders, making the ASEAN`s 10 member countries become a single market and production base.

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Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) is a government corporate entity attached to the Department of Agriculture created through Executive Order 1061 on 5 November 1985 (as amended) to help develop high-yielding and cost-reducing technologies so farmers can produce enough rice for all Filipinos.

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Philippine Rice Research Institute