By Edd K. Usman
The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) is intensifying its venture into space technology with the recent creation of a new program called Space Technology Development (STD) which has an allocated budget of P258 million.
The STD follows the successful launch of the country’s micro-satellite, the Diwata-1, which was sent to space in 2016 by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).
Filipino engineers are presently designing a bigger Diwata-2 through assistance from the Hokkaido University (HU) and Tohoku University (TU). DOST is targeting the first half of 2018 for Diwata-2′s launch and deployment in space.
DOST secretary Fortunato de la Peña earlier said the government has approved the DOST’s proposed budget of P24 billion for its 10-year space program.
“We will be doing an R&D (research and development) in human resource development and other activities, particularly in the area of space technology that can help us,” said Dela Peña.
He said he sees the STD budget getting bigger in the coming years, saying that in 2018 the allocation could be hiked to P1 billion.
At an event in Bay, Laguna, Dela Peña said he received information that the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) board has approved the Duterte administration’s Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2017-2022.
He said a chapter on the five-year PDP is devoted solely on advancing science, technology and innovation, with space technology identified as one of the strategic programs.
De la Peña enumerated the six areas where space technology can help the country:
• Deriving information that will be helpful in preparing for disasters, or risk reduction, or in relation with effects of climate change;
• Being able to have a better way of monitoring the country’s natural resources. For example, forests, marine, etc., for better management;
• Observing the status of agricultural production, whether it is good, or bad;
• Space technology can also be use for national security, defense system, the Philippines being an archipelago with its open (coastal) borders, said to be the world’s longest;
• Potential spin-off to space technology-related industries, citing the satellite development; and,
• Developing human resources in space technology as the world is changing very rapidly, technology is changing very rapidly.
Dela Peña noted, however, the country’s lack of manpower skilled in space technology.
“I think that space technologies will really also depend a lot on the basic sciences, like physics and mathematics. Mind you, if we already have a space technology program perhaps many of our youths would have interest in terms of learning about science and mathematics,” he said.