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[MANILA] The Philippine government has increased its budget for science and technology (S&T).

At the first Philippine National Conference on Intellectual Property and Technology Commercialization in Manila last month (16 June) the government announced the increase from 740 million Philippine pesos (US$16.4 million) in 2007 to 1.26 billion pesos (US$26.6 million) this year.

The increase in budgetary funds will go to the Grant-in-Aid programme of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), which funds research and development (R&D) projects.

"This big budget … will pave the way for enhanced research and development capacity, strengthened national innovation system through technological transfer, and delivery of high quality S&T service through human resources development and S&T promotion," Graciano Yumul, undersecretary for research and development at DOST, told SciDev.Net.

Yumul said funding for the Grants-In-Aid programme has increased dramatically over the last few years, from P265.5 million (US$5.9 million) in 2005. 

"We hope that with continued support, we can address national programmes, acquire new knowledge, keep pace with the modern [S&T] environment and be a more valuable contributor to it, and improve future performance," he says.

Priority fields for research included biotechnology, agriculture, alternative energy, information and communications technology and health. Yumul says these fields have the greatest potential benefits for the country.

DOST announced at its fiftieth anniversary celebration event last week (9 July) that in 2008, the department hopes to implement 175 projects in food processing, nutritional products, information and communication technology, environment, wood processing, nuclear services and metalwork.

Speaking at an event to mark the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Science and Technology Week (9 July), Philippine president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo reiterated the government's commitment to S&T.

She said, besides the increased DOST budget, the government is investing in a special three billion pesos (around US$66 million) fund for R&D between 2007 and 2010.

According to a government press release, the fund is in line with the government's Medium Term Philippine Development Plan, which seeks to further S&T by increasing the number of Philippine scientists, speeding up knowledge creation and dissemination, and improving the mechanisms that promote technology-based entrepreneurship.

Arroyo said that R&D efforts would prioritise food and agriculture, energy, public health, information and communication technology, and the environment, including disaster prevention.