DOST shrugs off resignation of engineer from Diwata-1 microsatellite program
MANILA — “It’s a free country.”
This was the reaction of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) when sought for comment on Wednesday, on the resignation of one of its nine engineers who tirelessly developed and worked on the country’s first microsatellite, Diwata-1.
Richard Burgos, director of the DOST’s Science and Technology and Information Institute, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in a phone interview on Wednesday, that they respected Julian Marvick Oliveros’ decision to quit from the team working on the microsatellite program, which has been developing Diwata-1’s predecessor Diwata-2. He, however, said that he is not privy as to when Oliveros’ resignation will take effect.
“He has already expressed himself on social media. It’s a free country,” Burgos said.
Early Wednesday morning, Oliveros lamented on his Facebook page that he couldn’t “endure” anymore the lies being spread by the DOST.
“It is one thing to defend yourselves and another thing to crush an innocent man, my friend and teammate Paolo Espiritu. This has got to stop. It’s simply too much,” Oliveros said on his post that has been shared by more than a thousand users as of this writing.
Oliveros alleged that the DOST preyed on their innocence and led them into signing contracts that were “unfavorable” to them.
“At one point we tried backing out three times, yet they all came back to us with promises of a better contract that was never done. In good faith, innocent as we were, we signed the contracts, having complete trust in them and looked up to them with respect,” he said.
In an earlier post, Espiritu also lamented about the same contract, which he said classified them as merely students. “On paper, we weren’t part of the project. On paper, we were not engineers,” he said.
He noted that while they pointed out their concerns to the DOST, all they got from the department were “vague inconsistent answers.” He added that they agreed to sign the contract since they were assured that “a more suitable contract” would be crafted, indicating their responsibilities and rights as engineers.
However, despite Diwata-1—officially called the Philippine Earth Observation Microsatellite (Phil-Microsat)—now set to be released into orbit as early as April 27, Espiritu said that the contract they were promised remained “imaginary” and they were still “merely students.”
Oliveros’ post and eventual quitting from the Phil-Microsat program came hours after the DOST issued a statement on Tuesday“clarifying” the issues and concerns raised by Espiritu.
In that statement, which Burgos also referred the Inquirer to, the DOST said that it “finds nothing derogatory with the term ‘student.’”
“In 2014, the DOST Phil-Microsat program was implemented to build the country’s first microsatellite in collaboration with Hokkaido and Tohoku universities in Japan and to provide an opportunity for the nine engineers involved in the project to obtain their MS (Masters of Science) degrees from these institutions. Under this plan, the engineers were issued student visas to allow them to stay in Japan to build the microsatellite and finish their MS programs in pertinent engineering fields,” the DOST said.
It pointed out that the nine engineers, who have been studying their Masters of Science in Aerospace Engineering at the Japanese universities under a government scholarship grant, have been receiving a stipend “35 percent higher” than their Japanese scholar counterparts.
A quick check online showed that research students under the Japanese government’s scholarship program, Monbukagakusho, have been receiving a monthly stipend of at least 143,000 yen (around P59,700). Using DOST’s computation, the engineers from the University of the Philippines and DOST’s Advanced Science and Technology Institute are receiving a monthly stipend of at least P80,000.
Without directly addressing the contract issue, the DOST said that it has not stopped highlighting in public the efforts, contributions and accomplishments of the engineers.
An apparently overburdened Oliveros described the government’s target goal of developing Diwata-1 within a year instead of the average three years as “extremely difficult and backbreaking.”
“[O]ur degrees are not really at stake. We were working, not studying, yet we did not quit. Not because of the imaginary contract, but because this is hope for the Filipino people, for the country,” Oliveros said.
When the Philippine Daily Inquirer called Burgos late Wednesday afternoon, he said that a “project management team” was already “talking” on the matter. He added that this incident “will not imperil” the development of Diwata-2, but noted that he was not privy to how the team would proceed following Oliveros’ resignation. SFM
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