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Philippines: DTI’s request for $3.5M AI center funding rejected anew

The Philippines’ vision of becoming “an AI center of excellence” was dealt a blow after a budget request to establish an artificial intelligence (AI) research center was denied for the second consecutive year.

The Department of Trade Industry (DTI) submitted a request for PHP200 million (US$3.5 million) in this year’s budget to establish the Center for Artificial Intelligence Research (CAIR) in San Pedro, Laguna, according to DTI Undersecretary Rafaelita Aldaba.

Speaking before the Senate Committee on Finance, Aldaba disclosed that the department first requested for the funding two years ago, but it was rejected.

“The center aims to make the Philippines an AI center of excellence in the region in the near future,” Aldaba told the lawmakers. “It’s going to house our data scientists, researchers, and engineers who will be conducting AI research and development.”

While the government has fallen behind in funding the center, the local private sector has made significant strides in AI research and development. Major corporations, including the Aboitiz conglomerate and UnionBank, have invested millions of dollars in the technology and have been organizing dozens of conferences, workshops, and meetups to push the AI agenda.

The two companies have offered to help the government implement its AI plans, the DTI undersecretary told legislators. This includes providing a space in San Pedro for the AI research center, but DTI has yet to utilize it due to a lack of funding.

“We don’t have the resources to hire people, as well as to procure the supercomputers that would be needed. But we do a lot of coordination, we do a lot of workshops and seminars to help people become more aware of the usefulness of adapting AI technology,” Aldaba told the legislators in response to why the department has yet to take advantage of the space.

The department will continue to push for the adoption of AI even with the limited resources, the undersecretary added.

Asian countries have been investing heavily in AI to keep up with rapid advancements in the U.S. and Europe. Aldaba revealed earlier this year that DTI estimates AI could inject $92 billion into the Filipino economy by 2030, equaling 12% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).

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