WHETHER it is tweaking with an existing invention or coming up with something new from scratch, Filipino scientists have proven that they can do both.

Yet not many of us are aware of their work. For example, Roberto del Rosario and his Sing-Along System (SAS) that led to the development of the Karaoke, is often attributed to Japanese scientists. The inventor of the incubator is Fe del Mundo, and the coin-operated mobile charger by Aquilino Tubigan Jr. is similar to the version installed in some convenience stores.

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Ben Santos is the inventor of zero-oil waste recycling who was even interrogated by the Economic Intelligence and Investigation Bureau (EIIB) as he was suspected of economic sabotage.

The plight of Pinoy scientists and inventors was So To Speak's topic last week where an inventor, a chemist and an academician graced the show.

Incidentally, an Invention Contest and Exhibit will be held on August 24 to 26 in Malolos, Bulacan. Whoever wins the tilt will compete in the nationals by November. It recognizes both emerging scientists as well as more established individuals.

Such opportunities locally are rare. Often we see our scientists going abroad, unable to get the recognition they deserve here at home. And a lot of our scientists are now based in the United States.

In terms of budget, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) has been receiving less that it ought, its 2009 budget is smaller by P 54 Million compared to 2008. It seems science is not a priority if it's not commercially-viable or oriented to benefit our export-oriented economy when they could be working towards furthering self-reliance and stimulating the local economy.

For instance, the International Rice Research Institute is in the process of developing rice genes that can withstand extreme changes in the weather or the work of Dr. Guillermo Mendoza on algae as a source of bio-diesel or a genetically modified Papaya that has delayed ripening capabilities and resistance to the ring spot virus. If developed, these Papayas could be shipped abroad with less blemish incurred during transit.

Although we cannot blame our inventors and scientists, the better option is that science should foster social service, after all promoting a better tomorrow has always been the role played by science throughout humanity's history.

Inventions like the solar oven or "pugon de araw" of Godofredo Manucdoc, capable of storing six hours of the sun's energy for broiling, frying or baking, or the iodine supplement from creek water developed by Dr. Florence Reyes and even the sea-shell derived medication for chronic, debilitating pain by Dr. Baldomero Olivera, to name a few, give back to the community at large and not all benefits can be reduced to centavos and pesos.

Another pressing concern is the fact that some inventors are not aware of the need to patent and trademark their inventions as well as their innovations. Businessmen and entrepreneurs beat them to it, leaving them out of whatever financial success may come out of their brainchild.

Patenting, introduced twelve years ago, is relatively new for Filipino inventors. Statistics from the country's patent office shows that almost 98 percent of patents the agency has granted are help by foreign firms, mostly pharmaceuticals, seven percent of patents to Filipinos in agriculture, machines and equipment, chemical and herbal products, design and furniture.

Patents and registered trademarks prevent other companies or individuals from copying or cashing in on their creations. There is even such a thing as patenting as a group or a community, in cases of indigenous peoples.

It's about time we seriously address the situation our inventors and scientists are in by pushing for better treatment and recognition for them here at home.

Surely, if their work is respected and appreciated, backed up with substantial government funding to make their ideas and innovations bloom, not a single one would be lured abroad.