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close this bookTechnological Independence The Asian experience (UNU, 1994, 372 pages)
close this folder5 The Philippines
View the document(introductory text...)
View the documentThe historical roots of technological dependence
View the documentS&T policy: rhetoric and reality
View the documentCase-studies
View the documentCase-study results
View the documentTechnological dependence: nature and consequences
View the documentS&T in the Philippines: inputs and outputs
View the documentThe vicious circle paradigm
View the documentThe anatomy of technology transfer
View the documentThe search for models: learning from Asia
View the documentVision and commitment
View the documentToward a leap-frogging strategy
View the documentNotes
View the documentBibliography
View the documentAppendix 1
View the documentAppendix 2. major achievements of S&T in the Philippines

The historical roots of technological dependence

Even before their contact with Western cultures, Filipinos already had an alphabet, some mathematics, a calendar, and a system of weights and measures. They were engaged in rice farming, fishing, and the mining of gold. Medicine based on local herbs was practiced. Small boats and ships up to 2,000 tons were being constructed out of logs.

The Spaniards introduced the manufacture of lime, cement, and bricks and the use of concrete materials. Primary education was started by the Spanish missionaries in 1565. There were about a thousand of these parish primary schools by the end of the sixteenth century. The Spaniards also started higher education in as early as 1597 with the establishment of the Colegio de Cebu (now the University of San Carlos), and the University of Santo Tomas opened in 1611. Admissions to these schools were limited to a select few.

The emphasis in the church schools was on classical learning, specifically Latin, Greek, philosophy, the humanities, and law. Although medicine and pharmacy were taught, the natural sciences and engineering were generally neglected. The educational system, primarily based on the propagation of Roman Catholicism, did not foster a scientific tradition of scholarship.2 On the contrary, it reinforced the superstitious, pre-scientific outlook of the existing folk beliefs.

The teaching of science was disdained and Filipino students were discouraged from its pursuit. The emphasis was on rote learning. The objective of the lesson, for example, was not to teach physics, but to convince Filipino students that they were incapable of learning physics. Yet the Spanish system produced Filipinos whose liberal education was comparable to that of the graduates of European universities.

In the Spanish colonial period, the cultivation of sugar and coconuts was started, and to support these activities the first agricultural school was established in Manila in 1861. Since then, sugar and coconuts have become the prominent elements of the Philippine economy.

The significant change during the American colonial period (18981946) was the establishment of an alternative to sectarian education. A department of Public Instruction was created. American teachers were imported, and English was used as a medium of instruction. In 1901, a Bureau of Government Laboratories (now the National Institute of Science and Technology) was established and concerned itself initially with activities related to chemistry and tropical diseases. In 1908, the first state university, the University of the Philippines (UP) was established. In the following year, 1909, the College of Agriculture was set up in Los Banos. In 1910, the College of Medicine was organized from the already existing Philippine Medical School. In 1926, scientific research was started at the College of Veterinary Medicine, and the School of Hygiene and Public Health was added to the University of the Philippines.

It is interesting to note that, as in the Spanish period, the focus of the American period was also on agriculture and the medical sciences. Industrial technology was initially relegated to the vocational level at the Philippine School of Arts and Trades. This bias is also reflected in the emergence of scientific periodicals. The Philippine Agricultural Review was first published in 1908, whereas the UP Natural and Applied Science Bulletin was started 22 years later. Even today, there are no specialized journals in physics. The history of the formation of scientific societies also reflects this uneven development. The Philippine Medical Society was organized in 1901 while the Philippine Society of Civil Engineers was formed only in 1933. The early bias towards agriculture and medical sciences was also prominent in the manpower training programme.

The Philippines was effectively transformed into an exporter of agricultural products and raw materials and an importer of manufactured goods. This hindered the emergence of economic self-reliance and industrialization. There was practically no demand for research engineers and physical scientists. The emphasis was on agricultural and medical research.

The momentum of this colonial policy has continued up to the present. Caoili3 points out that factors associated with this colonial condition resulted in the cultivation of Filipino tastes for American brands and products. Cultural imperialism also critically influenced the outlook of the nascent Filipino scientific community.

In 1934, the American colonial government sanctioned the formation of the National Research Council of the Philippines, which was patterned after American models. Filipino scientists and their research were more relevant to the American condition, since the US was where they obtained their training and where their peers resided. Beyond the social effects of colonialism, the impact on the industrialization process itself has been profound.

As Yoshihara points out,4 the entrepreneurial class in the Philippines dramatizes its colonial origins. Only one-third of entrepreneurs today are native Filipinos, the other two-thirds being mostly foreigners. Even during the early years of independence, Philippine industries were dominated by the Americans.

After the end of direct American rule in 1946, the uneven development of S&T in the Philippines continued. Most of the scientific organizations established by the independent Philippine government were also predominantly agriculture-based. The physical sciences, engineering, and mathematics continued to be neglected.

In 1956, a National Science Board was established by Republic Act 1606 to promote scientific, engineering, and technological research. In the same year, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Scientific Advancement submitted a "Report on the Status of Science in the Philippines" to the President. Among other things, it recommended "an all-out financial support of scientific work and the establishment of a coordinating agency to handle scientific matters." This gave birth to the Science Act of 1958 (Republic Act 1067), which abolished the newly established National Science Board and created the National Science Development Board (NSDB). As reflected in the expenditures for R&D, the emphasis continued to be on agriculture and medicine, which accounted for more than half of all R&D funds. Basic research in the physical sciences was given something like 1-3 per cent of the total R&D budget, and applied industrial research about 5-15 per cent. According to NSDB figures for the 1960s, there were more physical scientists and engineers engaged in R&D, together constituting about 68 per cent of the total R&D workers. Life scientists (including medical and agriculture) were only about 15 per cent of the total. Thus, R&D expenditures were also biased in favour of agriculture and medicine.

The year 1968 is significant in the history of S&T in the Philippines. Presidential Proclamation No. 376 provided NSDB with a 35.6 hectare area in Bicutan to house the future Bicutan Science Community, consisting of research laboratories, pilot plants, science museum, etc. Moreover, the Congress of the Philippines passed Republic Act 5448, which imposed new taxes for a Special Science Fund to finance scientific activities for the next five years.

In the early 1970s, NSDB's principal concern was the infrastructural development of the science community. Most of the Special Science Fund was used for construction of the buildings of the National Science and Technology Authority (NSTA) and the other institutions.

The gross national expenditure for S&T for the period 1970-1975 varied from 0.21 to about 0.48 per cent of the GNP. Almost one-half of the research grants went to the University of the Philippines (UP). The significant developments in this decade were the establishment of the Philippine Council for Agriculture and Resources Research

(PCARR) and the Technology Resource Centre (TRC). PCARR became the effective research coordinating mechanism in the agricultural sector, resulting in more efficiency in the allocation of resources. This further strengthened the already dominant role of agriculture. The creation of TRC outside the orbit of NSDB was only the beginning of the dismantling and weakening of NSDB's monolithic hold on Philippine S&T. In this period, the Metals Industry Research and Development Centre and the Philippine Textile Research Institute were transferred from the NSDB to the Ministry of Trade and Industry. The National Computer Centre was established under the Ministry of National Defense. The TRC operates a technobank and a computerized database connected to foreign and local databases. The NSDB was pre-empted by others in the new and vital information technologies.

In 1982, NSDB was reorganized into a National Science and Technology Authority (NSTA) with four sectoral councils patterned after PCARR. In spite of this, however, NSTA was outside the mainstream of the Philippine industrialization programme. The Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) was supervising the Technology Transfer Board and the establishment of the country's major industrial projects. On the other hand, the TRC was implementing the so-called Technology Utilization of Energy under the Philippine National Oil Company. The control of MTI and TRC was in the hands of non-scientists. The management of S&T development in the Philippines was fragmented among various agencies. In spite of the transformation of the NSDB into an NSTA, it has, in fact, been considerably weakened by the loss of control over some of the important elements of national S&T development.