Although there’s a just a few days left before Congress takes a break for the May 13 elections, top officials of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) are optimistic that the bill creating a national space agency would still be approved by the legislature.
At a recent press briefing, DOST secretary Fortunato dela Pena cited the long list of reasons why the Philippines should now have its own agency dedicated to space science and development.
“The launch of the PhilSA (Philippine Space Agency) means that our country will be more equipped to improve its national security, hazard management, climate studies, space research, farming community, textile industry, and international cooperation, among many others,” said De la Pena.
“This also translates to a long-term investment on space research and development that goes to a dedicated program team, rather than fragmented budget and functions delegated to several government agencies.”
The DOST chief said the House of Representatives has already approved the bill on final reading. The Senate version, which has yet to pass, puts the space agency under the Office of the President instead of the DOST.
De la Pena said there is a need to centralize and coordinate the country’s space program, which he said, is now well beyond its infancy.
The Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development (PCIEERD), a division of the DOST looking after the government’s space initiatives, said the country has been increasingly reliant on space agency over the years.
Beginning with satellite communications in the 1960s, this continued to satellite remote sensing in the 1970s, which revolutionized other practices such as geological mapping and forest inventory, according to PCIEERD.
As of January 2019, De la said the government has spent about P7.4 billion on space research and development since 2010. There are also now more than 1,000 space science experts working on 25 space R&D facilities all over the country.
Even with all these efforts, the DOST said it believes that the Philippines will be more equipped and ready for space S&T applications if a centralized agency will be formed to handle this frontier.
As of the moment, several agencies under DOST, in collaboration with higher education institutions and other government agencies, have led research on key development areas.
These efforts have given way to the discovery of significant space technology applications such as landslide simulation and mapping, ways to assess the rise of sea levels, urban heat maps, urban drainage, infrastructure monitoring, landfill site suitability, flood hazard mapping, coastal bathymetry mapping, blue carbon and light pollution research.