Senator Loren Legarda said that the government could improve the country’s productivity and increase its competitiveness by adopting innovation as a vital component of development policies.
Legarda made the statement as the Senate passed on third and final reading the proposed Philippine Innovation Act, which she principally authored.
“This measure aims to promote a culture of innovation to encourage creative thinking and knowledge creation and dissemination towards expanding and maintaining economic competitiveness; improve innovation governance in the country and to compel the adoption of a long-term vision and focused priorities for innovation as driver for sustainable and inclusive growth; and ensure effective coordination and eliminate fragmentation of innovation policies and programs at all levels,” the veteran legislator explained.
The lady lawmaker also said that the Philippines used to have the enviable status of being the second most progressive nation in Asia during the 1950s and early 1960s. It was a model of development, second only to Japan, and was envied as an industrial powerhouse and served as a manufacturing hub for many products – from consumer goods to medical products; cement; textile and fertilizers; automobiles, televisions, and home appliances; as well as steel, for shipbuilding.
Today, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation classifies the Philippines as an “innovation follower”, which means it does not contribute significantly to the global innovation system.
“It also means we underinvest in scientific research, and are not willing to embrace needed reforms that could bolster our innovation potential. Being a mere follower is simply unacceptable, especially that the Filipino talent has contributed a number of game changing solutions to the world,” added the senator.
She cited Dado Banatao who invented the first graphics accelerator chip for personal computers, which allowed data processing to happen at the speed of light; Dr. Fe del Mundo who invented an improved medical incubator in 1941, which continues to save millions of infant lives everyday; and Dr. Rodolfo Aquino, who developed nine rice breeds in 1966 which helped prevent famine in much of Asia and helped make Thailand and Vietnam the world’s leading rice producers, a spot once solely occupied by the Philippines.
“These outstanding achievements, long delivered before other economies achieved their economic status today, show that if we put in place a firm and explicit commitment to innovation, we can turn things around. The Philippines has 32 different laws related to science, technology and innovation. At least 15 agencies pursue their respective innovation programs with very weak coordination,” Legarda said.
“Innovation efforts can no longer be directed at broad national development outcomes. We need a well-defined, explicit vision for the country that places innovation in the context of where we want to be in the mid- to long-term. Our innovation agenda needs to transcend the term of political administrations. The proposed Philippine Innovation Act will help fulfill that, together with improving innovation governance. It will help create an ecosystem that facilitates and supports innovation and entrepreneurial growth,” she stressed.
Under the proposed measure, the National Innovation Council (NIC) will be created to prepare a long-term roadmap based on innovation and coordination of such efforts in both the private and public sector through a National Innovation Agenda and Strategy Document.
The NIC, which will be headed by the President as chair and the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) director-general as vice-chair, would be tasked to strengthen partnerships among different actors – from the public and private sectors, to the academe, Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), research and development institutions, and local communities towards improving the quality of life through innovation.