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Philippines enacted law that would give more incentives to returning Filipino scientists and experts

According to the report made by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), the newly-enacted Balik Scientist Law would provide benefits and grants that would entice Filipino experts, scientists, inventors, and engineers to return to the Philippines so that they can share their knowledge in the country.

Another milestone has been reached by both science and technology in the Philippines with the Balik Scientist Law. Philippine President Rodrigo Roa A. Duterte signed Republic Act No. 11035 or the “Act Institutionalising the Balik Scientist Program” on 15 June 2018.

This law 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 DOST’s “Balik Scientist Program”. This program 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, either on a short-term or long-term basis in order to mentor science and engineering students and faculty along their line of expertise.

They have done this 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 Philippines.

A returning scientist can participate in DOST’s Grants-in-Aid research and development made possible by the Balik Scientist Law. A grant may be provided to the Balik (returning) Scientist and will be released through the institution that will be hosting the implementation of the project.

Various compensations can also be enjoyed by Balik Scientists. They can have tax and duty exemptions on the importation of professional equipment and materials. They will also receive free medical and accident insurance benefits, which would cover the award period.

Returning scientists can also avail reimbursement of expenses for baggage related to scientific project. Moreover, they can also be exempted from renouncing the oath of allegiance to the country where they took that oath.

They will also be granted special working and non-working visas, a round-trip airfare from a foreign country to the Philippines, an exemption from local travel tax, and DOST-subsidised visa application.

For long-term Balik Scientist awardees, they can enjoy relocation benefits. This includes support in securing job opportunities for their spouses, as well as admission support for their children in their preferred schools.

They would also be given a relocation allowance and monthly housing or accommodation allowance. Funding will also be provided for the establishment and development of a facility or laboratory.

The principal sponsor and author of the bill, Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV said, “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.”

He added, “This law addresses the problem on the low number of scientists in the country so we can fare better with our neighbouring countries in Asia who have more people working in research and development.”

DOST Secretary Fortunato T. de la Peña said that is very crucial to strengthen the DOST Balik Scientist Program because the Philippines has 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 give priority to experts in the fields of space, technology, artificial intelligence (AI), biomedical engineering, energy, agriculture, food technology, biotechnology, information and communications technology (ICT), 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 the Science and Technology Committee Erico Aristotle C. Aumentado.

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