Science and Technology in the Philippines

Discussion in 'Science & Society' started by eocaba, May 2, 2004.

  1. eocaba Registered Member


    Since the granting of sham independence to the country in 1946 there have been various studies on the state of science and technology in the country conducted mainly by scientists and engineers from the government, industry, and academe. Of the most recent studies, we take note of assessments and recommendations prepared by prominent members of the science and technology community, mostly from the University of the Philippines and Ateneo University.
    We summarize what these studies reveal of the state of science and technology in the country.

    1. Science and mathematics education is weak. In 1997, the UP Institute of Science and Mathematics Education revealed that "many teachers at all levels do not have the content background required to teach the subjects they are teaching." A survey of high school science and mathematics teachers done earlier in 1992 showed that only 71% of math, 40% of general science, 41% of biology, 21% of chemistry and 8% of physics teachers were qualified to teach their subjects.

    Raising the quality of science education has been further hampered by insufficient funding to provide the necessary facilities such as school laboratories, many of which are already antiquated. The result of such education is shown in the 1996 Third International Mathematics and Science Study where Filipino 13-years olds ranked 37th out of 39 in mathematics and 40th out of 41 in science.

    2. Research and Development (R&D) in the country stays at a low level of activity and this is reflected in the relatively low number of personnel involved, the total expenditures and actual output.

    + The number of R&D scientists and engineers per million in 1992 was only 155. This is far below the 380 recommended by the UN for the less developed asian countries. Compare it with 3,800 for Singapore, 3,300 for Korea and 4,300 for Taiwan.

    + Coupled with the extreme lack of research laboratories in semiconductors, molecular biology, photovoltaics, etc. is the inadequate facilities of the S&T libraries and information networks, including access by the university students and researchers to the internet.

    + There is very low output of international scientific research publications compared with Asean countries. In 1994, the Philippines's percentage share of total international scientific publications was only 0.035% ranking 51st throughout the world, below those of Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.

    + The gross domestic expenditures on R&D is only 0.22% as of 1992. Compare this with the 1980 UN target for less developed countries of 1%, 2.8% for Japan and the US, 1.8% for South Korea, and 1.1% for Taiwan.

    + Funding for the improvement of science education is woefully lacking and there is no adequate and attractive financial support for R&D scientists and engineers. There is not much support either in terms of venture capital for the commercialization of technologies.

    3. Only low-level technology is employed by local companies in their manufacturing processes; furthermore, these companies are doing very minimal R&D. This was shown in studies made by the Federation of Philippine Industries since 1988 and especially the survey made in late 1996.

    For example, in the semiconductor industry only the labor-intensive and low-technology portion of microchip manufacturing is being done locally. In the Information Technology (IT) industry, most work is done on the labor-intensive aspect of the process such as encoding and routine programming only and not much work on its knowledge-intensive aspect.

    This deplorable state of science and technology in the country is reflected in the 1995 World Competitiveness Report issued by the World Economic Forum, an organization that rates the competitiveness of countries in various areas, where teh Philippines is ranked 42nd out of 48 in science and technology, below Thailand (31), Malaysia (33), China (26) and Singapore (10). Science and technology in the country is backward and underdeveloped.

    But the greater significance of being hobbed by such backward state of science and technology lies not so much in our country being so many years behind its neighbors and rendered uncompetitive but rather in the fact that our people are deprived of a science and technology that can be harnessed to fully serve their basic needs and make them lead more livable, meaningful and richer lives.

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  3. eocaba Registered Member


    The present state of science and technology in the country is the logical product of the society that has molded it, for science and society are inextricably intertwined. It is therefore necessary to trace its historical roots and describe the political economy of the country in order to grasp the essence of the problem.
    Let me start with the kind of society and economy developed during the long years of spanish rule.

    At the beginning of Spanish colonialism, the mode of production among riverine and maritime communities had elements of slavery and serfdom. Technology was also well developed for handicrafts such as earthen pottery, weaving, blacksmithing, and boat building.

    Three hundred years of Spanish colonialism produced a colonial and feudal society accelerated by the imposition of the encomienda system. Later, when feudalism had greatly developed, the Spanish colonial authorities instituted the hacienda system, whereby export crops were cultivated on a large scale to meet the increasing demand from the industrial capitalist countries of Europe.

    Feudalism was pushed into maturation in the 19th century with the expansion of foreign trade involving Philippine agricultural exports and foreign manufactured imports. This resulted in the emergence of the community system within the natural economy of self-sufficiency. Certain areas specialized in export crops (such as tobacco in the Ilocos) and other areas in staple crops for domestic consumption. Agricultural specialization as well as domestic trade pushed the accumulation of land by friar and native landlords. It also gave birth to the comprador and working classes in the Philippine society.

    At the outbreak of the Philippine Revolution in the 1896 there was already manufacturing but this was still negligible. The best of this was cigar manufacturing and abaca rope making. The development of manufacturing was, in general, stifled by the importation of manufactured goods.

    US imperialism then intervened. This paved the way for the retention of feudalism and the violent imposition of direct US colonial rule. US imperialism immediately adopted feudalism as its social base. It expropriated most of the friar lands but it did not carry out land reform against the Filipino landlords. The promise to redistribute the friar lands to peasants was never intended to be fulfilled and these eventually fell into the hands of Filipino landlords.

    Under the aegis of US dominated "free trade", the unequal exchange of agricultural exports and manufacturing imports which started under Spanish colonial rule expanded. The US brought in investments for the establishment of sugar mills and the slight processing of some agricultural products. It also developed mining and the production of mineral ores for export.

    The Philippines fell under two extremely exploitative systems--foreign imperialism and domestic feudalism. This has resulted in what is called semifeudalism. The commodity system has prevailed in the country. But the kind of commodities produced by the economic system is merely raw materials for the industries of capitalist countries. This includes agricultural and extractive commodities.

    Instead of outright plunder, the US has drawn from its surplus capital and brought investments into the Philippines to promote a pattern of trade based on unequal exchange of Philippines raw materials and foreign finished products. When deficits occur in the unequal exchange, the Philippines incurs more foreign loans to cover these.

    Both the import-substitution industries in the fifties and the export-oriented industries started in the sixties are dependent on imported equipment and manufactured components and raw materials. The export-oriented industry is just an embellishment of import-substitution and is ever more import-dependent; it is actually involved in mere fringe processing and packaging for local market penetration, tariff circumvention and re-export.

    The Philippine economy is a semi-feudal economy, basically agrarian and pre-industrial. It is now more tightly in the orbit of the world capitalist system as an appendage of the capitalist countries, especially the US. Its main features are the following:

    + The forces of production are still mainly and essentially agrarian and non-industrial. They are still backward or underdeveloped.

    + The principal means of production is agricultural land totaling 12 million hectares in 1980. It produces the food staples for the people and some amount of raw materials for local light manufacturing and handicrafts, and the overwhelming bulk of surplus products for export.

    + The means of production generally lacks a backbone in capital goods industries. There are no heavy and basic industries, no machine-tool industry, no basic metal and chemical industries, no engineering industries beyond the superficial handling or slight processing. Of components that have already been basically processed abroad.

    + The semifeudal economy is a commodity system that has departed from the feudal economy of self-subsistence. It is one dominated, not by the homegrown industrial bourgeoisie, but by the urban-based comprador big bourgeoisie in close partnership with the rural-based landlord class.

    + The following semifeudal Philippine society consists of the following:

    Comprador big bourgeoisie and big landlords-----1%

    National bourgeoisie----------------------------1%

    Petty bourgeoisie-----------------------------7-8%



    The comprador big bourgeoisie--that group of import-export magnates and captains of industry--is the single most dominant class in Philippine society and has replaced the landlord class as the no. 1 exploiting class. In collaboration with the foreign monopolies, the comprador big bourgeoisie is in command of a commodity system that is mainly and essentially exports and manufacture imports. The comprador big bourgeoisie and the landlord classes are close allies and there are many big compradors who are also big landlords.

    The comprador big bourgeoisie is the principal trading and financial agent of the US and other transnational corporations. It owns and controls the largest and most important trading, financial and other facilities in the so-called service sector which are not direct subsidiaries of foreign corporations. According to a study, about 60 big comprador families control the majority of big banks and the so-called investment houses, which are essentially merchant banks.

    + Philippine cities are basically centers of operations of the comprador big bourgeoisie and not of an industrial bourgeoisie. The prevalent kind of economic activity in Metro Manila is commercial rather than industrial and in provincial cities there is generally a small area as center of commercial activity. The population outside the small commercial centers in so-called provincial cities is actually rural. The provincial capitals and town centers which are not classified as cities have generally less commerce and less urban amenities than those classified as cities.

    Since the late '70s, there has been a lot of talk about the Philippines being well on the way to being well on the way to being industrialized. Many, including some from the Left and from the academe, fell for the illusion of progress conjured by the US-Marcos regime's infrastructure projects, which were actually non-productive, funded by massive foreign loans, and milked of hefty kickbacks by the bureaucrat capitalists. The increasing hardships the Filipino people suffered throughout the martial law years, ultimately and decisively belied the regime's false claims and promises. Eventually, even the Aquino regime would see its initial popularity worn away by the economic and political crises it refused to solve. But the Ramos government would resort to and even more ambitious scheme of deception with its Philippines 2000 program.

    I would like to present some data to show that the Philippine economy not only remains semifeudal, but that the crisis of this semifeudal system is far worse now than it had ever been before.

    1. Trade Balance

    For a backward pre-industrial import-dependent country such as the Philippines, "trade balance" is a gross contradiction in terms. There will never be a balance between imports and exports but rather, a growing imbalance with imports heavily outweighing the exports. The following data from 1971, the year before Martial Law was imposed, to the present clearly shows that this colonial pattern of trade not only persists but is fast aggravating.

    For the past quarter of a century, it was only in 1973 that a positive trade balance was registered, and only for US$ 240.57M. Since 1987, the trade deficit has never gone below US$ 1 billion, and in the next nine years it would rapidly rise to US$ 12 billion. (Please see the ff tables and charts: Table 1. Foreign trade, 1970-97; Chart 1a. Foreign trade, 1970-97; Chart 1b. Trade Deficit, 1970-97)

    2. Foreign Debt

    There is a parallel rise in foreign debt as the Philippine government covers up for the deficit through massive foreign loans. In 1970, the foreign debt was only US$ 1.9 billion. In 1986 this had ballooned to US$ 26 billion and to US$ 28.6 billion by 1990. To reduce foreign debt, the Philippine government resorted to heavy domestic borrowing. But this did not keep the foreign debt from increasing even more rapidly. Officially, it has risen to US$ 45 billion, but actual debt could be as high as US$ 51 billion. (See Table 2. Foreign debt, 1970-97; Chart 2. Foreign debt, 1970-97)

    3. Labor Force Profile

    A profile of labor force distribution into the various sectors of the economy through the years presents incontrovertible proof that the economy remains pre-industrial, and indicates the worsening crisis that afflicts the semifeudal economy. The share of employment in the agriculture sector falls as tillers are crowded out and evicted from land lost to landgrabbing and land conversions. The glaring fact is that the employment shares of industry and manufacturing have not risen beyond 15% and 11% respectively in nearly four decades. This can only mean that there are no industries to absorb the displaced tillers. (See Table 3. Employment in the sectors of the economy, 1960-05; Chart 3a. Percentage share of employment in the sectors of the economy, 1960-95)

    The Philippine government explains that the displaced tillers are absorbed by the "service" sector, even pointing to this as proof that the country is industrializing. But a closer look at government figures shows that the overwhelming majority of those employed in the non-agricultural sectors, i.e., the industrial sector and the "service" sector so-called, belong to the informal or underground economy. In 1995, 12 million or 82% of those in the industrial and "service" sectors were in the informal economy while only 2.6 million belonged to the formal economy. Of these, only 2.1 million were regular employees while 470,000 had temporary or casual status. Clearly, the "service" sector described in government statistics is not the same high tech adn white-collar finance, banking and communications sector characteristic of a highly industrialized economy but a third world informal underemployed sector of s semifeudal economy. (See Chart 3b. Nature of employment in the industrial and "service" sectors)

    4. Balance of Payments, Balance of Capital Accounts, Balance of Current Accounts

    The past Ramos regime has always crowed over the BoP surplus the Philippine has supposedly been enjoying during its term, pointing to this as a clean bill of health for the economy. But the truth is that the BoP surplus comes not from local production of goods and services but from foreign loans and investments and from OCW remittances, which has ballooned to as much as US$ 5 billion. Foreign investments, on the other hand, consist mostly of non-productive, transient portfolio investments. This, even a large BoP surplus cannot be taken as a sure sign of a healthy economy.

    Worse, the Philippine government manipulates the data to show a healthy surplus. Recently, the Bangko Sentral was forced to admit a discrepancy of US$ 5.16 billion in its computations, pulling down the BoP to a huge US$ 3.3 billion deficit. (See Table 4. Balance of payments, 1985-97; Chart 4. Balance of payments, 1985-97)

    A more reliable measure of whether or not the economy is living within its means, so to speak, is the Balance of Current Accounts. Generally, this is the BoP minus capital accounts which in turn consists mainly of foreign loans and investments.

    5. Foreign Investments

    The current financial crisis triggered by speculative attacks on the financial system underscores the fragility and vulnerability of semifeudal economy heavily dependent on foreign loans and investments. The Philippine government boasts of increasing investor confidence in the economy as shown by the increased foreign investments, but in reality a large portion of these are portfolio investments attracted to nothing more than the prospect of quickly earning a hefty profit (see data and graphs, ratio of direct to portfolio investments). These portfolio investments, moreover are just as quickly taken out as they are thrown in, contributing little if any to economic growth (See Table 5. Foreign investments, 1990-96; Chart 5a. Foreign investments net flow, 1990-96; Chart5b. Foreign investments inflow, 1990-96; Chart 5c. Portfolio investments flow, 1990-96)

    The class composition and structure of Philippine society has remained basically unchanged over the decades. Among the social classes in Philippine society, the compradors and big landlords, who comprise only 1% of the population, lord it over the rest. The compradors are the export-import magnates (hyped by PR consultants as "captains of industry") who serve as local agents of foreign monopoly capital. The big landlords still dominate the countryside and extract the most surplus product from the peasants. But a large portion of this goes into the pockets of the compradors in the form of profits from sales of luxury goods and agricultural exports and imports. Many of the compradors are also big landlords or originate from this class.

    The middle or national bourgeoisie, the stratum of the bourgeoisie most interested in industrializing the Philippines, is a junior partner of the comprador bourgeoisie. Their ambition to develop industrial capital is constantly squelched and frustrated by the compradors and their US imperialist masters.

    Likewise, the landlords have no desire to mechanize or raise the level of agricultural technology. It is perfectly in the landlords interest to keep agriculture backward, so that they can better coerce the peasants into giving more surplus product for the use of their land.

    Thus it can be seen that imperialism and the local ruling classes have no interest in developing Philippine industry, and thereby have no need for advancing science and technology. On the contrary, it is in their interest to keep the economy perpetually agrarian and pre-industrial, thus consigning science and technology to a backward and stagnant state. It is to be noted that while science and technology seem to be always in the service of the society as a whole, irrespective of class, in reality it serves mainly the ruling classes and does so to the detriment of the great majority of the masses.

    Toward this end, imperialism and the local ruling classes have propagated and perpetuated an anti-national, anti-people and unscientific culture. In the history of mankind, superstition and metaphysics have always served the ruling classes well. The Philippines is no exception.

    It should be evident by now that a semifeudal economy, whose main characteristic we have just described, cannot provide the conditions for the full development of science and technology in the country; on the contrary, such an economy will continue to shackle it to a backward and underdeveloped state. Only by effecting basic changes in Philippine society can this dismal and deteriorating state of science and technology be remedied.

    It is therefore important for the S&t community to be involved in solving the problems confronting society in order to advance its own interests with regards to the development of S&T. Having done so, they cease to become activists only for and within the S&T community but for the entire Philippine society as well, and for that matter, for the entire international community. While doing that on the long term, it is possible for the S&T community in the short term to work for certain reforms in S&T environment and policies and push these to their limits; after all, it it possible, even on a very limited platform, to stage a drama that is full of sound, color, and grandeur.

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  5. eocaba Registered Member


    The proposal on social and economic reforms stresses the need for the implementation of a genuine agrarian reform and national industrialization.
    Only a genuine agrarian reform, including the provision of technical assistance to the peasants and the establishment of cooperatives and collectives among them can create the conditions for high agricultural productivity. Only national industrialization can establish a modern diversified economy that can secure the livelihood of the masses, guarantee that their basic needs are satisfied, ensure rapid and sustained economic growth and achieve economic independence from imperialist domination. The strategic plan is to make heavy and basic industries the leading factor, with agriculture as the base and light industry as the bridging factor to satisfy the needs of the people and cause rapid accumulation of funds for investment.

    We believe that the entire people, especially the workers and peasants, when aroused, organized and mobilized under the guidance of a genuinely patriotic, democratic, socially-responsible and determined national leadership, can consciously gear the economy towards serving their own needs through social planning to delineate a state sector, a cooperative and collective sector, and a private sector.

    The objective is to break free from the neocolonial pattern of production, investments, and trade based mainly on the export of agricultural and extractive raw materials, the import of finished goods, agricultural commodities and capital, and the re-export of reassembled or repackaged imported manufactures; and establish a modern and diversified economy that secures the livelihood of the mass of the people and guarantees the satisfaction of their basic needs.

    We believe that economic development can avail of the comprehensively rich natural resource base, the skilled forces of production, including the workers, peasants, pool of scientists and technologists and the rest of the Filipino people, who at the same time are the primary consumers. Likewise, with the development of industry, science and technology can reverse the drain of highly competent and skilled human resources for whose development huge investments have been expended from social product.

    Our specific proposals will give high premium to the development of the country's capabilities in science and technology as an essential requirement for rapid and sustained expansion of productive capacity through the following provisions:

    1. Adoption of measures to promote research and development in the basic and applied sciences. Although the drive towards industrialization itself will encourage innovation, learning, and adaptation, conscious sustained investment in developing science and technology shall be undertaken, together with protective measures, in the active effort to develop domestic productive capacity;

    2. Reversing the historical and prevailing neglect of the country's science and technology infrastructure as reflected in the miniscule resource allocations by allocating adequate resources to programs geared towards its development;

    3. Giving priority of employment to Filipino scientists, technologists and workers in all enterprises; and, where no Filipinos are qualified, hiring foreign experts for no more than five years within which they shall transfer full and complete knowledge and skills to Filipino understudies;

    4. Ensuring an adequate supply of skilled, competent and progressive human resources, geared towards domestic needs and priorities rather than those of foreign corporations through the following measures:

    + Developing and propagating comprehensive curricula oriented to serving the country and its people in the basic sciences, engineering, modern agricultural techniques and management.

    + Setting-up the necessary implementing infrastructure, including teachers and instructors, schools and other learning centers and facilities; and, in particular, expanding scientific, engineering, and vocational-technical schools.

    + Granting incentives to students in the form of scholarships and other required support and providing outlets for their skills that are in the national interest.

    5. Conducting a survey of indigenous technologies that are relevant and appropriate, particularly with respect to the domestic processing of agricultural and industrial raw materials, with a view to their harnessing, expanded use and upgrading.

    6. Adopting measures to augment the domestic stock of technological knowledge by selectively tapping personnel and equipment from abroad, by entering into technology-sharing and technology-development agreements with other countries and by actually sending Filipinos overseas to learn technological advances with a view to adapting these to our needs and capacities.

    7. Ensuring delivery mechanisms for science and technology research outputs to encourage economic enterprises to utilize the results of research and translate these into greater opportunities for economic development genuinely aimed at improving the general well-being of the people. This means encouraging and stimulating the active participation of productive enterprises and mass organizations in science and technology as users and themselves as sources of innovation.

    8. Recognition of the expediency of "appropriate technologies", but without prejudice to the need for overall technological development or for a long-term orientation of judiciously developing and using high technology.

    The implementation of these specific proposals will develop the economy and this in turn will provide the fertile ground for the advancement of S&T. Then we can say with Engels that it would be possible to secure for every member of the society, through social production, and existence which is not only perfectly adequate materially and which becomes daily richer, bit also guarantees him the free development and exercise of his physical and mental faculties.

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  7. eocaba Registered Member


    Having already explained and clarified what we believe to be the solution to the chronic crisis of a semifeudal and semicolonial society, it is now easy to grasp the important point that the struggle to fully develop science and technology in our country can be done successfully and meaningfully only when linked with the struggle of the people to achieve a free, just and prosperous society.
    It is true that in any society the scientists and technologists always have an important role to perform. But there will only be full meaning to the product of their scientific and intellectual endeavors when these enrich the lives of the broad masses of the people, not just the few who impose its rule on the rest. Knowing which side to work for is as important as knowing which science and technology to use in solving technical problems.

    We shall briefly explain a few of the things that the scientists and technologists can do. Although constrained by the boundaries set by a semifeudal economy and possibly the limitations imposed by their personal circumstances, it is still possible to push the limits and make science and technology serve the people.

    1. The S&T community can join or actively support organizations working for S&T for the people programs. These are organizations implementing projects hat directly benefit the people in both the rural and urban areas requiring skills and experience in the science and engineering. An example of such project is electrification of a barangay using a microhydro electric generator. The technical assistance of engineers in this project would be very valuable and would be very much appreciated.

    They can also join or actively support organizations involved in advocacy work relating to demands for raising the quality of S&T in the country including fighting for better opportunities and working conditions for the S&T community; publication of position papers or various issues like Intellectual Property Rights; conduct of educational campaigns that propagate a national, scientific and mass culture; and many more.

    2. The members of the S&T community can join or support various sectoral groups, especially those of peasants, workers and women, that need their expertise. For example, by making their services available to the peasant and the indigenous peoples groups, these sectors would be benefited by their additional knowledge and experience in agriculture and mining. On the other hand, withholding from them such needed technical support makes them vulnerable to manipulations by businessmen interested only in the profits to be made. Why then should the so-called captains of industry continue to enjoy a monopoly of the technical know-whys and know-hows of the best of our scientists and technologists.

    3. The scientists and engineers can also put up their own organizations and softstart their own initiatives within the framework of making science and technology work for the people. They can cooperate and coordinate with existing organizations with similar goals.

    4. The S&T community can advocate or support the proposals on socioeconomic reforms with emphasis on the items regarding national industrialization and the development of science and technology. As explained earlier, they must propose to do away with conditions in the politics and economy of the country that are obstacles to the full flowering of science and technology.

    These are only a few of the things that the S&T community can do. I am sure that your creativity and lively imagination could think of more.

    Let me end this talk with a reminder from one of the greatests scientists of this century, Dr. Albert Einstein. In an essay entitled "Why Socialism", he wrote:

    " The time--which, looking back, seems so idyllic--is gone forever when individuals or relatively small groups could be completely self-sufficient. It is only a slight exaggeration to say that mankind constitutes even now a planetary community of production and consumption.

    I have now reached the point where I may indicate briefly what to me constitutes the essence of crisis of our times. It concerns the relationship of the individual to society. The individual has become more conscious than ever of his dependence upon society. But he does not experience this dependence as a positive asset, as an organic tie, as a protective force, but rather as a threat to his natural rights, or even to his economic existence. Moreover, his position in society is such that the egotistical drives of his make-up are constantly being accentuated, while his social drives, which are by nature weaker, progressively deteriorate. All human beings, whatever their position in society, are suffering from this process of deterioration. Unknowingly prisoners of their own egotism, they feel insecure, lonely, and deprived of the naive, simple, and unsophisticated enjoyment of life. Man can find meaning in life, short and perilous as it is, only through devoting himself to society."

  8. Rappaccini Redoubtable Registered Senior Member

    Are you plagiarizing this, or are you the original writer?
  9. weebee Registered Senior Member

    ...the typical tripe. Science and technology (and its followers as its followers) aren’t able to change politics and society in a managed and controlled way.

    (note the NDFP who wrote this speech consider themselves ‘the revolutionary united front organization of the Filipino people fighting for national independence and for the democratic rights of the people', which might be why they don’t go in for providing evidence and concrete examples)
  10. DannyBhoy Registered Member

    LOL, sorry, but I don't buy any propaganda bullshit from the CPP-NPA-NDF.

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