By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
The country’s “brain-drain” problem could soon be addressed as Filipino scientists are expected to come home with the enactment of the law that institutionalizes the Balik Scientist program.
Senator Grace Poe said the recently-signed Republic Act No. 11035 or the “Balik Scientist Act” will encourage Filipino experts to return to the Philippines to help in the country’s development.
Poe, one of the authors of the law, lamented that “the phrase ‘Filipino scientist’ is often accompanied by the words ‘working abroad.'”
She said she hopes that this will be reversed with the passage of the RA 11035, which she described as “game-changing.”
The law, signed by President Duterte last week, aims to strengthen research and development in various fields by providing incentives, benefits, and privileges to Filipino scientists, engineers, and innovators who will return to the country to share their knowledge.
Poe said this would spur development and more opportunities for Filipinos and thus help in alleviating poverty.
“Through this law that offers a wide range of benefits and privileges to our scientists, we hope that various sectors will level up and become more productive,” Poe said.
“We hope that these highly trained Filipino scientists will help the government and institutions for the continued improvement of policies and programs and in research and development as these are core components of national development,” she added.
Under RA 11035, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) was mandated to approve and award the short-term, medium-term or long-term engagements of returning scientists in coordination with the host institution as well as facilitate the release of their benefits.
They shall be entitled to a special non-immigrant visa, free round-trip airfare, accident and medical insurance. They shall also be exempted from licensing requirements of the Professional Regulation Commission, and from taxes on their daily allowance and on donations of instruments related to the scientific project.
For the long-term program, grantees will be given relocation benefits and funding for the establishment of a research facility.
The Balik Scientist Program was established through the Presidential Decree No. 819 issued in 1975. It had a period of five years.
The program was extended in 1980 until 1986 through Letter of Instruction No. 1044. In 1993, Executive Order No. 130 was issued that revived the brain gain program under the supervision of the DOST.