MANILA - Sen. Panfilo Lacson on Thursday joined calls for President Rodrigo Duterte to "invest" P10 million in research and development instead of dangling the fund as a reward for those who could develop a vaccine for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
Duterte earlier said a P10-million reward would be given to any Filipino who could discover a vaccine against the coronavirus, as the world continued to grapple with the contagious disease that still has no cure.
"It would mean much more if the government invested more on research and development (R&D)," Lacson said in a statement, noting that the Philippines' research and development budget only accounts for an "average 0.4 percent" of annual appropriations.
"We only need to look at how much the most prosperous countries spend on R&D to see why we are among the laggards," he said.
"Even if we bump up the percentage [of R&D] to 1 or 2 percent of the national budget, it would make a major difference," he said.
Assistant Minority Leader and ACT Teachers Representative France Castro earlier made the same appeal, saying Filipino scientists need more support from the national government.
The Department of Health's Epidemiology and Surveillance Program's budget was cut by P147.49 million under the 2020 budget, Castro said.
"Now more than ever, the Duterte administration should impose systematic medical solutions and put in funding for research and development programs now rather than promising a grant to scientists and researchers after discovering a vaccine to COVID-19," he said.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque earlier said that apart from the P10 million reward, Duterte would also give a "substantial grant" to the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital (UP-PGH) for the development of a vaccine.
Roque did not say how much the UP-PGH would receive.