Although the global march is united on climate change issues, Feny Cosico of AGHAM explained that in joining that march, it’s also the responsibility of scientists here in the Philippines to show the context of science and technology in this country.
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – Against US President Donald Trump’s information blackout on climate change and repression of scientific knowledge, the call to stand for science is also getting a ready answer from Filipino scientists. They launched on Tuesday, April 18, the “March for Science, Environment, and the People,” their Philippine adaptation of global science march based on Philippine conditions.
The call to March for Science sprung as a protest to Trump’s clampdown on scientific research and discussion especially on climate change. The march evolved into a global movement promoting science as an indispensable tool for policy-making and sustainable development. Cleng Yu Julve, March for Science Philippine Coordinator, said the Philippine scientists’ march on Saturday, April 22, will be part of the 400 satellite marches around the globe to stand up for science.
In a press conference in UP-Diliman’s College of Science, AGHAM-Advocates of Science and Technology for the People brought together scientists, environmentalists, science workers and students vowing not only to join the #GlobalScienceMarch this Saturday but also to rally others to join or support the movement.
Feny Cosico of AGHAM urged all scientists to march with them this Earth Day to push “for pro-people, pro-environment science and technology geared toward national development.”
Exciting development in views, treatment of science & technology
The March for Science “will mark its place in history as the biggest gathering of scientists from across the globe to defend science in light of Trump’s anti-science and anti-people stance,” said Marlo Asis, 39, a Fellow of the Cornell Alliance for Science. For five years, Asis had worked as a broadcaster of the Department of Agriculture. Reporting agricultural news and development had given him insiders’ views on the advances in Filipino biotechnology. But at the same time, he saw numerous occasions when these advances were ignored or neglected amid the lack of support to Filipino science and technology.
He cited the innovations developed in the University of the Philippines- Los Baños, Laguna as some examples. He believed that if these had been widely disseminated, it would have helped increase the country’s food production.
“Science is eminently useful for our country’s food security,” Asis concluded.
In fact, science and technology is highly useful for the country’s industrialization itself. AGHAM’s Feny Cosiso said that this is one of the reasons why the Philippine leg of the #GlobalScienceMarch is anchoring its action and goals on calls for national industrialization. AGHAM in a separate statement cited as the major hindrance to the country’s use of science and technology (S&T) to develop itself the current backward state of S & T, and that it came about not for lack of capabilities but because S & T is being controlled by a few.
A student scientist and a scientist working in a government agency elaborated on this during Tuesday’s press conference.
Historic neglect of Philippine S&T
Ezron Cabrera, member of AGHAM youth and a student in UP Diliman’s College of Science, warned that the country’s young scientists are being trained under an education system that is geared more toward catering to foreign demands rather than domestic needs.
He observed that today’s commercialized education system brings basic science education out of, or so far from, the reach of the masses. Science courses are also increasingly proving to be a tough sell even to those who could pay the rising tuition fee as these have been “disappointing investments” to the science graduates, he added.
Indeed, many S & T workers are ending up as contractuals or project-based employees, even if they always get rehired on the same post once their contracts expired, said Cosico. This stems from the neoliberal policy adopted by the government. This policy, in turn, resulted in promoting employment setups that make it easy for employers to hire and fire workers; it also resulted in the government favoring the corporate takeover of vital businesses, public services, utilities and even research and development in science and technology.
Kalikasan PNE’s research into government spending on S & T showed that private interests in scientific research and development have dominated the field because of the government’s low spending on scientific research and development and the resulting low pay to government scientists.
In the US, science agencies have been suffering deep cuts in budget, the same, if not worse, is happening in the Philippines which has long been experiencing a worsening neglect of science and technology, said Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE).
He noted that the public spending for scientific research and development remains pegged at just 0.14 percent of the Philippine GDP. The global standard is at 2 percent. He lamented that public spending on environment-related R & D is just a little over a tenth of that minuscule amount representing the 0.14 percent of the Philippine GDP. The latest DOST data showed it spent only P537.78 million of the P4.73 billion total public R & D spending.
But private industry spending on environment-related R & D is even smaller, Bautista said.
Environmental activists with the Kalikasan PNE are set to join the #GlobalScienceMarch with vows to highlight the call for greater state support for scientific research and development and services necessary to have better environmental regulations and resource management.
The very limited opportunity in the country for scientists is made worse by employment schemes such as contractualization which deny workers their right to tenure, adequate wage, and benefits, said Krista Melgerejo of the Standards and Testing Automated Modular Platform in UP.
Cosico of AGHAM expressed hopes that the continuing projects benefiting science and technology and the environment would be institutionalized by the government and regularly funded, and its recurring project-based employees regularized on their jobs.
Science as tool for genuine development
The scientists and environmentalists set to hold the Philippine leg of #GlobalScienceMarch are pushing for a more sustainable use of natural resources and treatment of the environment. Jordan Fronda, a junior Public Health student from UP Manila and a member of the group UP Saribuhay, said that their group is also set to join the April 22 march for science.
Although the global march is united on climate change issues, Feny Cosico of AGHAM explained that in joining that march, it’s also the responsibility of scientists here in the Philippines to show the context of science and technology in our country.
“It has a huge connection to what’s happening in the US. And what’s happening in the US also has a huge repercussion on policy changes in the Philippines,” she said. Trump, said Cosico, is trying to keep under wraps all scientific data showing that climate change has been worsening as a result of human intervention, some of which are the extractive industries.
For everyone’s info, Cosico said, the Philippines’ energy policy and development are based on that of the US.
The Philippines joining the #GlobalScienceMarch will help throw light on that context, Cosico said. AGHAM and the network of environmentalists are looking at joint activities with scientists and environmentalists from the Philippines and abroad to jointly examine and change the damages to the environment due to the policies being minted in developed countries such as the US.
Since their group vows to continue doing similar actions beyond this Saturday’s #GlobalScienceMarch, she expressed optimism that the March for Science will continue to raise the social consciousness of scientists, and that they will continue to advocate a science and technology that truly serves the interests of the people.