Co-sponsorship Speech: The Philippine Innovation Bill

March 6, 2017

Co-sponsorship Speech of Senator Loren Legarda
The Philippine Innovation Bill
Senate Bill No. 1355, Committee Report No. 42
6 March 2017 | Senate Session Hall


Mr. President, foremost, I wish to thank Senator Sherwin Gatchalian for his stewardship and timely sponsorship of Senate Bill No. 1355, which I principally authored.


The Philippines has had the enviable status of being the second most progressive nation in Asia during the 1950s and early 1960s.  Our country was a model of development, second only to Japan.


We were envied as an industrial powerhouse and served as a manufacturing hub for many products – from consumer goods to medical products; cement; textile and fertilizers; as well as steel, for shipbuilding. We assembled automobiles, televisions, and home appliances.


Technology and capital from multinational enterprises during this period could have helped develop our inherent capacity for indigenous innovation, but that did not happen.


Today, the Philippines ranks 74th out of 128 countries on a range of global innovation indexes that include institutional environment, human capital and research, infrastructure, business sophistication, knowledge and technology outputs, and creative outputs.[1]


The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation classifies the Philippines as an “innovation follower” – meaning we do 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.


The Filipino talent has contributed a number of game changing solutions to the world, including:

  • the first graphics accelerator chip for personal computers invented by Dado Banatao, which allowed data processing to happen at the speed of light;
  • the medical incubator invented in 1941 by Dr. Fe del Mundo, which continues to save millions of infant lives everyday;
  • the video phone invented in 1955 by Gregorio Zara, which paved the way for the camera in our mobile phones today;
  • the development of nine rice breeds in 1966 by Dr. Rodolfo Aquino 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;
  • the moon buggy, invented in 1968 by Eduardo San Juan, then a project leader for NASA in the buggy development; and so much more.


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.


More recently, a 15-year old Filipino-Canadian student, Ann Makosinsk, inspired by her friend’s difficult plight as a student in a village without electricity in Mindanao, developed a flashlight that generates light from body heat.


There are numerous inspiring stories from other countries.


South Korea’s transformation from a country in ruins after the war into one of the richest economies in the world today is rooted in its systemic approach to building a knowledge-based innovation economy.


The Research and Innovation Council of Finland, headed by its Prime Minister, plays a crucial high-level role in coordinating education, research, science and technology, and innovation policies.  More than 50 other countries have similar innovation councils. We have none.


Taiwan has 19 state-created research institutes that contribute to designing and implementing industrial policy. Their research institute holds more than 14,571 patents and its personnel produce an average of five new patents every day.


Canada, guided by its goal of becoming the most innovative country in the world by 2030, adopted the model of networked clusters.  Specializations within localized industries are fostered through collaboration among universities, SMEs, and government.


The Philippines, on the other hand, has 32 laws related to science, technology and innovation. At least 15 agencies pursue their respective innovation programs with very weak coordination.


The recently-adopted Ambisyon Natin 2040 has identified innovation as one of three major components of fostering economic growth, along with infrastructure and competition.  Innovation efforts, however, 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.


This measure will help fulfill that, together with improving innovation governance.  It will help create an ecosystem that facilitates and supports innovation and entrepreneurial growth, in cooperation with all stakeholders, including academe and business.  It will support inventors, so that intellectual theft against the likes of Dr. Abelardo Aguilar, who discovered erythromycin in 1949, will not happen again.


Mr. President, my distinguished colleagues, the proposed Philippine Innovation Act is about making strategic, reasoned priorities.


I enjoin you to support this measure.


Thank you.***


[1] Global Innovation Index 2016 report. Johnson Cornell University, INSEAD, World Intellectual Property Organization.