SPEECH OF HON. LOREN LEGARDA: Innovations in Public Engagement Conference

June 22, 2022


Innovations in Public Engagement Conference

In celebration of the 2022 Philippine Innovation Expo and the 12th DOST-PCIEERD Anniversary

June 21, 2022


My warmest greetings to the Department of Science and Technology and to all of you here today.  I am grateful for this opportunity to speak before you, as you celebrate your 12th year Anniversary as a council. You have chosen as this year’s theme: “Empowering the Filipino through Innovative Engagement.”

Indeed, it will be innovation, research and development, and the knowledge economy that will empower each and every Filipino, as we recover from the challenges of the last few years.

In my more than two decades of public service, I have come to realize that public policy – laws and regulations, can only be effective, if we  involve the local community or the stakeholders in all phases of its development and implementation. This is public engagement.    First, that laws are informed and guided by the coming together of individuals, groups, communities, and stakeholders.   Second that the government engages in information dissemination.  We must be able to translate our policies, speeches, and laws into simple language and technology for our people to benefit therefrom.  And third, that the laws be responsive and adaptive to the needs of the nation. Only then are the laws able to truly address the issues at hand, whether it be for health and social services, climate change adaptation or mitigation, or education and livelihood.

During my visits to different areas around the country, I have witnessed the creativity and innovation of our countrymen.  But not only this,  I have also seen how, when given the right knowledge, tools or technology, Filipinos are able to add value and benefit to their craft, their businesses, and their lives.

I am the principal author of Republic Act No. 11293, or the Philippine Innovation Act.  The law aims to “foster innovation in the country as a vital component of national development and sustainable economic growth”.  These are inspiring objectives.  But we can only give the law teeth, if we push for its effective implementation.  We need to be able to utilize the provisions of the Act, so that it effectively addresses the pressing needs of various sectors, particularly the Micro, Small, and Medium enterprises (MSMEs). Again, we need public engagement, and the most effective means is do so at the local level, where local officials meet with the community.

In my hometown Antique, we were able to link the DOST and the University of Antique (UA).  Using the DOST’s Community Empowerment through Science and Technology (CEST) program, we were able to establish livelihood support hubs in UA campuses and technology-based barangay economic enterprises around the province. This project has generated employment and entrepreneurial opportunities, increased the productivity level of municipalities, and even curbed the problem of malnutrition.

By coordinating and leveraging on other government programs, I was able to encourage and sustain local MSMEs in Antique.  Again, it was innovation that helped the Bagtason Loom Weavers Association in Bugasong; the Malabor Abaca – Piña Weavers Association (MAPWA) and the Tibiao Active Weavers and Knotters Association (TAWKA) in Tibiao; and the Ati Bukidnon Tribal Organization in Libertad, improve their products and sustain their businesses. We were able to do so because we heard the voices of the entrepreneurs. We asked them about the challenges they faced, and crafted policy based on their collective recommendations.

I encourage the DOST to adopt the tenets and spirit of the law to encourage creative thinking and creative innovation in pursuit of competitiveness. I also urge you to ensure that projects being funded such as the One Town One Product (OTOP) and Shared Service Facilities (SSF) of DTI and the Community Empowerment thru Science and Technology (CEST) and Small Enterprise Technology Upgrading Program (SETUP) of DOST are being utilized well.

I also would like to emphasize the need for innovation to address the climate crisis. Tackling the climate emergency will require innovation in many areas: design, finance, partnerships, philanthropy, and international cooperation, to name a few. I have made it my task to call on all agencies of government to align their budgets towards ecosystem restoration and nature-based solutions to the climate emergency.

What is urgently needed is framework legislation that is innovative, science-based and sustainable to allow Filipinos to protect themselves, their livelihood and communities from the devastating impacts of natural disasters.  We can do this foremost at the local level, where simple local adaptation measures can reduce disaster risks and spell the difference. All climate action is local. We need to engage the communities themselves.  They are the ones who know most about their landscape, their situation, and needs. This kind of knowledge, integrated appropriately into decision making, helps ensure that public policy decisions are optimal for the community and best fit current conditions and needs.

I hope to follow a “Building with Nature” approach, as we move towards a shift in paradigm: from fighting against nature, to working with and alongside natural processes.  We need researchers and scientists, and we need technological innovation and policy support such as incentives, greater market demand, and public and private investment.

Lastly, science and innovation will play an indispensable role in ensuring that Filipinos do not go hungry.  Our farmers and fisherfolk are suffering.  Energy prices, and the costs of farming inputs have skyrocketed.  But there are innovative approaches to production, such as localized, integrated, and regenerative production systems.  Our scientists, alongside farmers and indigenous communities, can find ways to increase yield through natural, indigenous and science-based solutions. There are also climate and disaster-resilient technologies that could benefit our food producers.  Additionally, we can develop efficient transport and logistic systems to link farms to the market. We can provide them with innovative, affordable and adequate financing.

Research, technology, science and ecosystem approaches can be game-changers for the millions of food producers.  There needs to be stronger convergence among government agencies and local government units and collaboration with the private sector, civil society and all our citizens. This will be essential, as we brace for the impacts of the global food crisis in the country.

I have narrated a few examples of the creative ways we can put a premium on innovation, public engagement, and pursue convergence with other institutions to add greater value to existing government programs. Together, let us “empower the filipino through innovative engagement”.  Let us create an ecosystem that facilitates and supports innovation and entrepreneurial growth.  Once again, thank you for having me. Isang luntiang umaga sa inyong lahat.