PH saw need for space dev’t program after WPS standoff, Yolanda

By Edd K. Usman

TANAY, Rizal – Department of Science and Technology (DOST) secretary Fortunato de la Peña said he hopes Congress would pass more science-related bills in 2018, particularly those that deal with space development.

DOST secretary Fortunato de la Peña

DOST secretary Fortunato de la Peña

De la Peña made the statement on Monday, Dec. 18, at the Science and Technology Legislative Forum hosted here by DOST Region IV-A.

The science chief, nonetheless, cited the support provided by the legislature, saying “the collaboration of DOST and Congress is vital because the initiatives of the science community will not become laws unless the House and the Senate will help us.”

Presently, de la Peña said there are several bills pending in Congress. Among these proposed laws are the enhancement of the “Balik Scientist” program, upgrading of S&T centers, and the establishment of a Philippine Space Agency (PhilSA) and a National Metrology Institute.

“For the PhilSA, we realized that space technology can contribute in many things in the development of a nation,” he said.

“We started launching micro-satellites in 2016, gathering much information that we can use, some of them for monitoring crops and forests, as well as hazard areas.”

At the S&T Legislative Forum, scientist Dr. Rogel Mari Sese pushed for the development of a local space program and the creation of the PhilSA.

He noted that in 2013, the DOST already started crafting a space program but it is only recently that it has actively pursued it.

And why does a poor country like the Philippines need it? See said there were two recent events that have made it extremely necessary: the standoff in 2012 between the Philippines and China in the West Philippine Sea, and the devastation brought about by Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in November 2013.

In the dispute between China and the Philippines, the country felt the need to have high-resolution images from satellites to guard Chinese intrusion in Philippine waters.

In the case of Super Typhoon Yolanda, only satellite-based connectivity was available for disaster relief as all other forms of communications were destroyed or rendered inoperable by the storm.

Dr. Rogel Mari Sese

Dr. Rogel Mari Sese

Sese, who is engaged with the Philippine Space Science Education Program under the Science Education Institute (DOST-SEI), said a space program costs a lot but it is more costly without it.

He said the country needs to go on a space program now or run the risk of not being able to catch up even with its neighbors in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).

“You can see that in this day and age, space is very much pervasive in our society, although most of the time we are not aware that we are using space technologies.

“In a way, space technology is like electricity, like water. It is there. We normally take it for granted. The moment that we lose electricity, the moment we lose water, the moment we lose access to space technology, that is the only time we realize that it is very important to us,” said Sese.

Sese lamented that at present the Philippines is only No. 7 in Asean when it comes to space development. “We are just ahead of Cambodia, Myanmar, and Brunei.”

Even Laos has leaped ahead of the Philippines after it launched in November 2015 its own geostationary satellite, he pointed out.

As a result, the Philippines has a “very limited access to space… it is lagging behind compared to its neighbors in Southeast Asia.”

This is despite the fact that the country launched the Diwata-1 micro-satellite into space from the International Space Station (ISS) in 2016.

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