Science and technology in the country scored another milestone with the signing of the Balik Scientist law by President Rodrigo Roa A. Duterte on 15 June 2018. Republic Act No. 11035, also known as an “Act Institutionalizing the Balik Scientist Program,” would give more incentives to returning Filipino experts, scientists, inventors, and engineers who would share their expertise in the country.
The enacted law would strengthen the implementation of the Department of Science and Technology’s (DOST) Balik Scientist Program which was first established in 1975 through Presidential Decree No. 819 but was only implemented in 1986. Since its implementation, several scientists have come back to the country on short- and long-term basis to mentor science and engineering students and faculty along their line of expertise through research and development, teaching, and other activities. This sharing of expertise significantly contributed to the acceleration of the scientific, agro-industrial and economic development of the country.
Through the Balik Scientist Law, a returning scientist can participate in DOST’s Grants-in-Aid research and development. A grant may be provided to the Balik Scientist and released through the host institution for the implementation of the project in accordance with relevant government regulations and the need of the program involved.
Aside from that, a Balik Scientist can also enjoy various compensations that include tax and duty exemptions to importation of professional equipment and materials, free medical and accident insurance covering the award period, reimbursement of expenses for baggage related to scientific projects, and even exemption from “renouncing their oath of allegiance to the country where they took the oath.”
The benefits also include special working and non-working visas, a round-trip airfare from a foreign country to the Philippines, exemption from local travel tax, and DOST-subsidized visa application.
Also under the bill, long-term Balik Scientist awardees can enjoy relocation benefits, such as support in securing job opportunities for the spouse of the awardee, and admission support for the children of awardees in preferred schools, relocation allowance and monthly housing or accommodation allowance, and funding for the establishment and development of a facility or laboratory.
“Malaking tulong ang batas na ito upang mahikayat ang mga Pinoy scientist na bumalik sa bansa at tumulong sa pagpapaunlad sa bayan at sa buhay ng mga Pilipino. Matutugunan din ng batas na ito ang kakulangan ng bansa sa scientists, upang makasabay na tayo sa ating mga kapitbahay sa Asya na mas marami ang nagtatrabaho sa research and development,” said Senator Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV, the principal sponsor and author of the said bill.
(This law is a big help in encouraging Filipino scientists to return to the country and contribute to improve the nation and people’s lives. This law addresses the problem on the low number of scientists in the country so we can fare better with our neighboring countries in Asia who have more people working in research and development.)
Meanwhile, after its passage in the bicameral session last March, Secretary Fortunato T. de la Peña said that is very crucial to strengthen the Balik Scientist Program of the DOST because we have areas that lack experts such as space technology and artificial intelligence which are just starting. He believes that having enough human resource in these fields would help the country in conducting various research and development projects in these areas.
The bill also states that the Balik Scientist Program will prioritize experts in the fields of space, technology, artificial intelligence, biomedical engineering, energy, agriculture, food technology, biotechnology, information and communications technology, pharmaceutical, disaster mitigation and management, environment and natural resources, electronics, genomics, health, manufacturing, nanotechnology, cyber security, and semiconductors.
The law also requires DOST to ensure that the results of scientific and technological activities are properly applied and used.
The counterparts of Sen. Aquino in the House of Representatives in sponsoring this bill are Zamboanga del Norte 1st District Representative Seth Frederick R. Jalosjos, Zamboanga del Sur 1st District Representative Divina Grace C. Yu, and Bohol 2nd District Representative and chair of Science and Technology Committee Erico Aristotle C. Aumentado.