MANILA (UPDATE)— President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. has tapped Phivolcs officer-in-charge Renato Solidum to head the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), Malacañang said on Friday.
The Palace sent Solidum his appointment papers on July 22, based on the copy of a transmittal letter. Speaking to ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo, Solidum said he learned of the appointment a few days ago.
Asked what his first order is as the new head of DOST, Solidum said he would need to supervise all offices and regional units of the DOST to coordinate the efforts on science, technology, and innovation for economic development.
"Ito po ang ating titignan: kung paano tayo magpupulido at maka-partner at makatulong sa iba't ibang department ng pamahalaan upang matupad ang mga socioeconomic agenda ng ating Pangulo at siyempre ito ay para sa lahat ng Pilipino," he said.
(We will look into how we can streamline and partner with different government agencies so we can attain the socioeconomic agenda of our President.)
He added that he would also focus on problems regarding disaster risk reduction and climate change, noting that DOST "has a lot to offer."
"Marami kaming ahensya na minsa'y 'di alam kung ano ang ginagawa ng marami but definitely geared towards helping mga kababayan natin," he said.
(We have a lot of agencies that do not know what they are doing but definitely geared towards helping our citizens.)
Solidum, a geologist, will replace Secretary Fortunato Dela Peña, who led the agency since 2016.
Solidum has worked with Phivolcs since 1984. He served as its director from 2003 until February 2017. He was appointed as DOST undersecretary and Phivolcs officer-in-charge in March 2017.
The DOST provides leadership and coordination on scientific and technological efforts meant to yield economic and social benefits.
In the lead-up to the May elections, Marcos pushed for ramping up the country's research and development, and boosting support for Filipino inventors and scientists. He said government should also fund the projects of young innovators in schools.
In 2016, Marcos said the country must produce more scientists by helping establish more science schools, especially in provinces.
“Science and technology should play a major role in our national policy because it is one of the basic factors that fuels a country’s development, it sets the pace of the economic growth of a country and we Filipinos can only achieve this if we have enough scientists studying and looking for innovations how to help achieve our goals,” said Marcos.
During the pandemic, the DOST took charge of several clinical trials for COVID-19 adjunct therapies, including studies on virgin coconut oil, lagundi, and tawa-tawa for coronavirus treatment.
In May this year, the agency ended its clinical trial on the use of anti-parasitic drug ivermectin for COVID-19 due to difficulties in ethics clearance and to save millions of pesos that would be sourced from the health department.
During the Duterte administration, Dela Peña said the agency was in talks to kickstart fill-and-finish vaccine operations in the country.