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Balik Scientist Act approved in bicam final reading

THE BALIK Scientist Act that would give more incentives to returning Filipino scientists and engineers is expected to be enacted into law next month. The Act, also known as Senate Bill 1533, was approved in the third and final reading at the Senate and House of Representatives during the Bicameral Conference on 06 March 2018 at the Senate of the Philippines in Pasay City.

Balik Scientist Act approved in bicam final reading
President Duterte expected to sign it into law, Senator Aquino says
by Allan Mauro V. Marfal, DOST-STII

THE BALIK Scientist Act that would give more incentives to returning Filipino scientists and engineers is expected to be enacted into law next month. The Act, also known as Senate Bill 1533, was approved in the third and final reading at the Senate and House of Representatives during the Bicameral Conference on 06 March 2018 at the Senate of the Philippines in Pasay City.

Senator Paulo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV, principal author in the Senate, shared that both Houses are expecting that President Rodrigo Roa Duterte will sign the Act into law within the next two months. His Lower House counterpart, Bohol second district representative Erico Aristotle C. Aumentado, was equally optimistic.

“Upon transmittal of all the documents to Malacañang which will take few weeks, then in 30 days if there is no veto message, we expect that he will sign this and it should be a law by April or May. I don’t see any reason for the President (Duterte) not to approve this law. We all know that he would like to see all greatest Filipino minds to stay in the country to contribute to economic development,” said Senator Aquino IV.

The Balik Scientist Act seeks to institutionalize the Balik Scientist Program of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST)
which encouraged some of our scientists to return and contribute to research that will help address development gaps in the Philippines.

Under this bill, a returning scientist can 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.”

Aside from that, a Balik Scientist can also participate in DOST’s Grants-in-Aid research and development projects with an initial lump
sum research subsidy of P500,000 for a short-term program; P500,000 to P2 million for a medium-term program; and P2 million for the long-term program, in accordance to relevant government rules and regulations and the need of the program involved.

The benefits also include special working and non-working visas, a round-trip class 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.

“Institutionalizing the Balik-Scientist Program of DOST is one way of showing that we recognize the importance of our scientists
and engineers abroad, especially on how their knowledge, expertise, and experience could help a lot in order to address some of the pressing problems of different areas in the country, particularly in the urban part,” said Sen. Aquino.

Sen. Aquino also shared that Sec. de la Peña has been supporting this bill for years, since he was an undersecretary of DOST.

“Malaking bagay na mapalakas natin itong Balik-Scientist program kasi may mga area coverages tayo na kulang na kulang tayo ng
experts. Kagaya na lang sa space technology and artificial intelligence na ngayon pa lang nag-uumpisa, mahalaga na mayroon tayong enough human resources upang tumulong sa research and development pagdating sa mga field na ito” said Sec. de la Peña.

(It is very crucial to strengthen the Balik-Scientist Program of DOST because we have areas that lack experts. Examples are space technology and artificial intelligence which are just starting. It is very crucial to have enough human resource in these fields to help us in conducting various research and development projects.)

Also under the bill, a non-bachelor’s degree graduate but with extensive experience in important fields can also be considered a
Balik Scientist and can apply for the program. The bill also states that the Balik-Scientist Program will prioritize experts in the fields of
agriculture, drug discovery, information and communications technology, and disaster risk reduction management.

Source: 1st Quarter 2018, DOST S&T Post

Interviewed by: Allan Mauro V. Marfal, DOST-STII