Partner organizations of the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic, and Natural Resources Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST-PCAARRD), particularly from the Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in the country expressed the need for more Balik Scientists to help in their research and development (R&D) initiatives. This was made apparent during the one-day Balik Scientist Program (BSP) Consultation Meeting held recently in Cebu City.
For the past 42 years that the program has existed, there are more than 500 Filipino experts overseas who have been part of the BSP, with around 180 scientists eventually repatriating in the country.
“We need to have a more proactive approach to enjoin more Filipino scientists overseas to come back to the country. Through the Balik Scientist Program, they can contribute to the country’s efforts on national growth and development through science, technology, and innovation,” said Dr. Melvin B. Carlos, OIC Deputy Executive Director for Administration, Resource Management, and Support Services of PCAARRD.
The consultation was organized to identify the expertise needed by host institutions, which are predominantly HEIs.
“Aside from engaging more Filipino expats into the program, we also want to have more HEIs in the regions involved in the BSP,” said Dr. Juanito T. Batalon, Director of PCAARRD’s Institution Development Division, which implements the BSP for the agriculture, aquatic, and natural resources (AANR) sector.
According to the HEIs present in the consultation workshop, fields of specialization needed from potential Balik Scientists include virology, plant breeding, crop modeling, bioinformatics, crop physiology, precision agriculture, nanotechnology, molecular genetics, agricultural extension, and agriculture and rural development, coastal resources management, carbon stock assessment, among others.
BSP will be institutionalized following the passing of the Senate Bill no. 1533, otherwise known as the Balik Scientist Act.
Under the said bill, Balik Scientists will enjoy enhanced benefits and incentives. The bill has also established a medium-term engagement of six months to one year, apart from the existing short-term engagement (one to three months) and long-term engagement (two to three years).
Long-term Balik Scientists will also receive new benefits including subsistence allowance, support in securing job opportunities for the awardee’s spouse, and admission support for their children. In addition, the awardee will receive funding for R&D projects which may include establishment and development of a facility or laboratory for the awardee’s host institution.
Together with PCAARRD, BSP is also implemented by the DOST-Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (DOST-PCHRD), which cover Balik Scientists in the health industry and the DOST-Philippine Council for Industry, Energy, and Emerging Technology Research and Development (DOST-PCIEERD) for those BSP engagements in the Industry, Energy, Emerging Technology, and Special Concerns.