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A Filipino scientist based at the New York University reiterated the importance of a strong base in science and technological research for the economy`s sustained growth.

“To turn our back on science and technology will inevitably condemn [the Philippines] to perpetual economic backwardness,”  Dr. Michael D. Purugganan, Professor of Biology and the Dean for Science at New York University, said in the Thought Leaders section of Rappler.

Purugganan stressed that by investing on science, we can “develop products that can boost our economy, or new drugs to help our people fight disease, or new crops to feed everyone.”

In rice sector alone, study shows that research and development contributes to 25% yield growth in rice, as it addresses yield gaps caused by weeds, pests, and diseases.

Despite the contribution of research, however, Purugganan said that the country only spend less than 0.1% of our GDP on S&T.

The 2009 World Competitiveness Yearbook, meanwhile, showed that Malaysia and Thailand allocated 0.64% and 0.20%, respectively, of its GDP to research and development.

“Spending on science and technology is an investment that we, as a society, need to affirm. There are many needs we have, but we cannot afford not to invest in our scientific infrastructure,” he pointed out.

When Vietnam increased its public spending on research and development by more than 270% from 1996 to 2008, its rice yield went up from 3.77t/ha to 4.89t/ha; making it the second highest rice producer in Asia.

The 2013 report of the International Food Policy Research Institute and  Asia-Pacific Association of Agricultural Research Institutions showed that Vietnam have increased its public spending on R&D from $23M to $86M during the 12-year period.

The Philippines` spending, on the other hand, showed only a 3% increase from $129M to $133M.

Purugganan, also a member of the Council of Scientists of the International Human Frontier Science Program, said that investing in S&T will also increase the technological capacity of Filipino scientists.

He said that “when our scientists carry out research, they sharpen their technical skills, they learn how to confront the unknown, and they gain confidence in their abilities to solve problems and find answers.”

“In the 21st century, we are increasingly wrapped in a technological world where we, as a society, need make decisions. We cannot always rely on foreign scientists and engineers and doctors to tell us what technical choices we should make. Investing on our own scientists and their research allows us to make those technical choices for ourselves,” he added.

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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