• DOST at the forefront of believing in the Filipino first

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    AL S. VITANGCOL III

    US President Donald Trump, in less than a month in office, has proven to American citizens that his campaign slogan, “America First,” is not mere rhetoric. Trump has already issued 18 executive orders and presidential memos, which have all had a big impact. He has signed orders for a temporary ban on accepting refugees, restrict immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries, and dramatically restructure the National Security Council, among others.

    Well, “America First” is not new. We had the short-lived “Filipino First” policy during the time of President Carlos P. Garcia (1896-1971). Recall that sometime in August 1958, the then National Economic Council passed Resolution 204, which implemented the Filipino First policy. This meant that the Philippine government should adopt measures to give Filipinos preferential treatment in their own country. History tells us that this policy was condemned by foreigners and also by Filipinos, those who were fronting for foreign interests.

    Historians allege that the Americans supported the ouster of Garcia to pressure him to abandon the Filipino First policy. Again, the Americans allegedly helped Diosdado Macapagal to defeat Garcia in the subsequent presidential elections. When Macapagal won, he abolished the Filipino First policy and lifted import and exchange controls. As they say, the rest is history.

    YES to Filipino talents

    The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) recently conferred the Youth Excellence in Science (YES) Awards on exemplary students who brought honor to the country during the year 2016. This was held at the Philippine International Convention Center on February 1, 2017.

    The YES Awards is pursuant to the thrust of the Science Education Institute (SEI), a government agency under DOST, to motivate the youth to strive for excellence in the fields of science and mathematics. It is given to Filipino students who won in international science and mathematics competitions.

    The DOST Secretary himself, Fortunato “Boy” T. de la Peña, handed out the medals to the 446 student-winners present. The YES medals signify the DOST’s high regard for excellence and competitiveness through the distinguished achievements of young Filipinos in international competitions.

    The awardees came from 86 schools in Metro Manila, with the Philippine Science High School (PSHS) topping the list with 60 student-medalists. It was followed by Grace Christian College and St. Jude Catholic School–each with 37 winners. Coming in third was De La Salle Santiago Zobel with 23 awardees.

    Winners from the other regions, outside of Metro Manila, consisting of 375 students from 152 schools, will be awarded by their respective DOST regional directors in separate fitting ceremonies.

    S&T promotion in President’s agenda

    In his message, Secretary Dela Peña said that the promotion of science and technology (S&T) to enhance innovative capacity is part of the ten-point agenda of the President. He said that in his 14 years in government, this is the first time that the promotion of S&T is included in the President’s agenda. In fact, science technology and innovation is given a full chapter in the Philippine Development Plan for 2017-2022.

    No wonder the Philippines has not escaped from its foreign technology dependency and has failed to move forward because of the previous administrations’ neglect of this important field.

    He noted that the DOST budget for 2017 is about 40 percent higher than that of 2016 and that SEI has a 20percent increase in budget from 2016 to 2017. Further, the present administration has approved the DOST’s proposal for a ten-year Space Technology Development Program for the Philippines, including the setting up of a National Space Development Office.

    Wow! This simply shows Dela Peña’s belief in the Filipinos’ intelligence and capabilities. Imagine, Filipinos having their own space program. This is Filipino First in action.

    Youth as leaders of tomorrow

    Addressing the medalists, the Secretary said that the increasing number of awardees “is proof of a very promising future ahead for our country. You are all exceptionally talented individuals, with the skills to be beyond excellent in science and technology. There are endless opportunities ahead, especially those that push the boundaries of your key abilities in research, innovation and solving complex problems, particularly in a rapidly growing economy such as ours.”

    He added: “Let me remind you that you are the leaders of tomorrow. This means your exceptional skills also come with a great responsibility, not only to yourself and to your family, but also to our nation. And I challenge all of you, not only to continue honing your talents, but to also think of the ways in which your skills can impact genuine, positive change in the lives of the Filipino people. Eventually, the torch will be passed on to you. At that time, I trust that you will all keep the fire burning. Together you must shape a brighter future for this country and its people.”

    I cannot say it any better than Dela Peña. These students will be our leaders of tomorrow and as early as now, we must inculcate in them the sense of pride in the abilities of the Filipino. Believe in the Filipino first!

    Banding together to promote Filipino First

    A group of nationalists has banded together to form an organization which they have named PAG-AHON. The new group believes in the revival of the Filipino First policy and in the promotion of a sense of “nationalism.” Likewise, PAG-AHON considers going for the use of Filipino technologies first and ultimately reforming the Philippines into a powerhouse of the future.

    I can still remember that the DOST had successfully developed an operational prototype of an Automated Guideway Transit (AGT) system way back in 2014. The completed running prototype was tested and currently sitting at its specially designed elevated tracks at the University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City. This first Filipino-made AGT exhibits the ingenuity of Filipino engineers. However, the then Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) belittled this accomplishment and ignored the AGT in its transportation plans.

    Well, as usual, the powers-that-be opted for foreign technologies and suppliers–to the detriment of Filipino inventors and engineers.

    PAG-AHON will try its best to promote Filipino technologies, lobby the House of Representatives for the passage of appropriate legislation that will prioritize the use of Filipino products and services over their foreign counterparts, and coordinate with the different government agencies in the recognition of Filipino ingenuity and creativity.

    The group echoes the slogan, “Pilipinas Para sa Pilipino” and “Pilipino Ang Gagawa – Ang Hakbang Tungo sa Pag-unlad (PAG-AHON).”

    PAG-AHON, just like DOST, is at the forefront of believing in the Filipino first.
    Let us all believe in the Filipino first.

    If we will not believe in the innate talent, ability, and intelligence of the Filipino, then who will?

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