Medicinal plants in the Philippines and developing countries: challenges and opportunities
Christopher G Jesudason

Letter to the Editor

To the Editor, 

The scientific system that the Philippines and much of the Third World (TW) including Malaysia operates under is a global one, serving essentially the interests of the dominant Western powers, although it presents itself as a universal system that is relevant to all, equally, with comparable benefits. Scientists are promoted in their home countries in the TW depending on how well they serve the interests of this globalized system. The Philippines, and indeed most countries in Asia have a very large population density: the Philippines alone has about 111 million peoples, which is about ¼ of the entire European Union (EU) with 447.7 million inhabitants. Most of these TW countries face innumerable challenges, with a very low standard of living, a severely degraded environment coupled with looming environmental challenges like climate change and threatening weather conditions, poor resource management and poor training and educational levels, with little facilities for research with low funding for whatever research is possible.
With so many problems, one would ordinarily expect that the number of journals, volume of journal articles and scientific literature including monographs and books that the Philippine academics come up with to serve their own interests and those of their communities would be at least ¼ or more of the whole of the EU based on population proportionality and in view of all the problems that Filipino society faces that should inspire a drive to research and innovation to address these problems that would require large scientific media capacity, despite its poverty and its need to build up a technical infrastructure that can adequately address these problems that their society is confronted with.

Unfortunately, this is not the case, with only a very few Philippine journals available, with even less listed in the ISI master index list and at a very low rank, and where the frequency of publication and volume of publication is very low, and where the journal format is unable to cater for the professional open-source Latex template for scientific and technical journalism found in the advanced countries. There are no local comprehensive search and citation databases, nor online availability of books and journals too. Furthermore, the costs of these foreign journals that do not address the Filipino situation are extremely and unaffordably high, and the contents too are simply not relevant to the questions that Filipino scientists should be asking and answering if they are interested in their communities’ well-being. And apart from serving the self-interests of a few chosen and individually groomed Filipino elite scientists, the scientific international scientific media is not meant for Philippine scientists in general (there is simply not enough publication space available in these exclusive and eliminative journals, and the science involved requires content development that is dependent on the culture concerned, and decades long buildup of technical and experimental acumen and funding and specialized manpower and a social network that is simply not present in the Philippines). Therefore, apart for the elites mentioned who serve as role models for Western interests, these alienated media and system of accreditation inadvertently entice young scientists to follow the example of their elit scientists, thus perpetuating the same cycle of events within the system that has been in place since independence that has arguable not generally improved the situation over time. The challenges therefore for young Filipinos are many, and it will cost them their lives to address these basic issues that requires courage, sacrifice, love for people and their work and dignity, since the pressure of the major powers and corporations are against any developments that will enable people to solve their own problems in a relevant manner, and which will contribute to self-ordering and organization. Solving problems in a relevant manner include valuing the people and community to the extent of wishing to solve problems that are relevant to them, which will become the content of scientific research and publication. Most ambitious Filipino academics are promoted by the foreign press, and so will not solve problems that are relevant to the country and community and which can build up scientific acumen there, including the information and journal system. 

The Scientific establishment there in the TW uses western metrics like their citations, number of publications in ISI journals, and H indices to promote people, and so most of the scientific work in the Philippines is of no relevance to the Philippines, but worse of all, it does not add value, significance and aesthetics to the Filipino people, and the environment that they live in. At present, even if people start solving real problems that are tangible and palpable, there will be a need to manage a very rapid and large journal and scientific literature system that is accessible to all Filipinos at very affordable costs, and to have a database so that all work may be cited and indexed for retrieval, where journal publication is based on wishing to pose problems and solve them, and not for promotional purposes. Then the technical infrastructure, such as the ability to fabricate scientific instruments required to validate theories and hypothesis must also be in place. There is also a need to develop an ethic that wishes to seek the welfare of others outside of Filipino culture, as a service to others in a tangible manner, and to relate those problems to local problems, so that there is some unity of purpose over a broader front than merely the nation whose extent was largely determined by imperialism.

So far, ever since independence, the scientists in the Philippines and the TW have not sought their own interests, and have not established a scientific infrastructure that is able to sustain itself and expand to solve problems within the terms and finances and affordability of the Filipino peoples and economy or of the respective TW country of concern. Serving other dominant people’s interest without remuneration is not only a waste of time, it is a drain on the economy, and above all , it confers a sense of cheapness and impotence and inferiority on the lives of the population, including the scientists who serve these alien and alienating interests. Therefore, the first task of young people interested in science is to self-organize, identify areas that need to be investigated, and to add value to oneself and the environment that one subsists under, and to be prepared to bear the costs of such an enterprise with all the resistance it will incur. This will require real faith in doing things, rather than to seek perpetual forgiveness of sins committed due totemptations and the passions of the body that lends itself to ordering by dominant cultures so that they can take advantage of people and their labors and their labors to detract them from solving problems and creating infrastructural and other facilities that are relevant to the community at large.