Knowledge capital in the Philippines

Last February, we had the privilege to take part in De La Salle University’s commencement exercises led by its speaker, Dr. Tereso S. Tullao Jr, one of the country’s esteemed economists and academicians.

In his very inspiring speech, he stressed on the role that education plays in harnessing the country’s economic progress: a) in creating knowledge capital; b) social capital and c) human capital. Among these three, he took importance on the state of our knowledge capital.

Knowledge capital is defined as the instrument or mechanism a society uses in creating innovation to speed up its economic progress. Back in the 60s, South Korea’s benchmark for innovation was the Philippines; this at a time when the President of South Korea would visit the Philippines to take on best practices primarily because our per capita income back then was double that of his country. A couple of decades later, South Korea has left the Philippines behind with their per capita income more than 10 times that ours.

Our nation’s decline in innovation is shown in the number of scientific journals we publish, Dr. Tullao added. In the last 21 years, the Philippines has published 27,000 documents – compare this number to our neighboring countries such as China which published 5 million documents and Malaysia which published more than the Philippines published in the last 21 years. The gap is indeed alarming.

One strong contributing factor here is how the government invests in research and development: for example, South Korea invests 4.3 percent of their gross domestic product (GDP) for research and development (R&D) while the Philippines invests only 13% of the country’s 1 percent GDP in R&D. Clearly, there is a gap on what needs to be done versus what is being legislated. As citizens, we could feel the impact of not innovating sustainably given the plaguing problems we are facing on everyday, most notable of which is the Manila Water shortage crisis that left the eastern part of the city in chaos. It is 2019 my dear readers yet we have our fellow citizens complaining of no water! Something is amiss.

Dr. Tullao suggests key four things to help contribute to our economic progress:

Pray for our country; there is a Tagalog saying “nasa Diyos ang awa nasa tao ang gawa” that will echo well in this case. In high school, we were also taught the value of Ora et Labora (pray and work). We must do our part and pray for guidance.

Elect officials with long-term vision in the growth of our country; choose leaders that take value in creating knowledge capital. We must choose candidates who we strongly believe in not because of their popularity but because of their expertise.

Be an expert in your chosen field. In creating knowledge capital, we will need thousands of experts in different disciplines; in every 151,000 faculty member in each college, only 14 percent has PhD. How can we pursue our knowledge capital if we only know how to teach and we have not developed skills in research? The key to create knowledge lies in research and development.

Create products and services based on your expertise. Use what you have learned not only to work but to create new products and services that would generate employment in our country; if you are a graduate of education, find creative and new ways to teach and publish text books relevant to the learning capabilities of the students; for graduates of sciences, use thesis and dissertation materials to create innovation to solve poverty, water issues, malnutrition, etc.

We have the same basic problems as what we had decades ago. Our neighbors are getting ahead of us because they seemed to have gotten things right. We just cannot progress given this. We have to start solving these basic issues and find ways to plan for a better future. As a country, we need to innovate and create our knowledge capital.

Kay Calpo Lugtu is the COO of Hungry Workhorse, a digital and culture transformation firm;Co-Founder of Caucus, Inc. and Deputy Director of Global Chamber Manila. Her advocacies include data privacy, financial literacy, and nation-building. The author may be reached at