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Albay's Cong. Gonzalez seeks service extension of retiring government scientists

LIGAO CITY—Once House Bill No. 515 is passed into a law, services of government scientists who would be due for compulsory retirement shall be given an extension of five years.

Rep. Fernando Gonzalez
Sponsored by Rep. Fernando Gonzalez of Albay’s third congressional district, the Bill seeks to amend Republic Act No. 8439, otherwise known as the Magna Carta for Scientists, Engineers, Researchers and Other Science and Technology Personnel in Government of 1997.

Gonzalez on Thursday here told the Philippines News Agency that although RA 8439 provides for the rehiring of a retired employee “who possesses technical qualifications and the capability to undertake specific scientific research activities, provided no qualified science and technology expert is available to undertake said scientific activities,” extending his or her services behind the mandatory retirement age is more favorable to both the government and the employee.

“It is of my honest belief that even at the age beyond 65, the mandatory retirement age for civil service employees, most, if not all, scientists are still at the peak of their mental capabilities and are still very much capable of continuing their invaluable work on scientific projects that they had been working on prior to retirement,” he stressed.

The Albay lawmaker clarified that while the Magna Carta covers all scientific personnel in government, including science and technology (S&T) managers, supervisors and planners; members of the scientific career system; scientists, engineers and researchers; and Department of Science and Technology (DOST technicians and related S&T personnel, HB No. 515 covers only “scientists”.

RA 8439 defines S&T managers, supervisors and planners as those who are graduate degree holders or have at least 10 years of managerial experience or are performing executive, planning and policy-making functions to effectively carry out science-related activities.

Scientists, engineers and researchers, the same law says, are at least undergraduate degree holders in any of the natural science and engineering courses and are involved in research and development or other scientific and technological activities.

DOST technicians and related S & T personnel are those who obtained at least 12 units in science, engineering and other related courses or any appropriate training and are providing support services.

Gonzalez explained that under HB No. 515, the extension of services shall be subject to conditions such as the project that the scientist is working on at the time of compulsory retirement is within the priority research and development programs of the DOST and is identified as strategic to the national development.

Other conditions are that the scientist is still mentally and physically fit to complete the project; and the request for extension of services shall be submitted to the Civil Service Commission (CSC) for approval at least three months prior to the date of the compulsory retirement of the scientist, he said.

When the extension is approved, a scientist would continue receiving preferential salary approved by the President under the Magna Carta outside the existing law on salary scales and other benefits such as honorarium, share in royalties and hazard allowance.

Honorarium is for S & T personnel who render services beyond the established irregular workload of scientists, technologists, researchers and technicians whose broad and superior knowledge, expertise or professional standing in a specific field contributes to productivity and innovativeness shall be entitled to receive honorarium subject to the rules to be set by the DOST.

Share in royalties is defined as a share in the proceeds of royalty payments arising from patents, copyrights and other intellectual property rights divided on a 60-40 percents basis in favor of the government and the entitlement is for personnel involved in the technology activity which has been produced or undertaken during the regular performance of their functions.

Hazard allowance, on the other hand, is paid to S& T personnel involved in hazardous undertakings or assigned in hazardous workplaces.

The amount ranges from 10 to 30 percent of their monthly basic salary, depending on the nature and extent of the hazard involved.

Considered hazardous workplaces are radiation-exposed laboratories and service workshops; depressed areas; areas declared under a state of calamity or emergency; strife-torn or embattled areas; laboratories; and disease-infested places of assignment.

This measure is important to government efforts to entice scientists from the country’s universities to join the DOST and address the “brain drain” following retirements and departures of some of the agency’s experts for better compensation abroad, Gonzalez said.

The bill has been listed among the priorities for approval by the Committee on Science and Technology of the Lower House chaired by Rep. Victor Yu, he added.(PNA)

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