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Space agency aims to aid disaster response

By Kristine Erika Agustin and Antoinette Capuz

The Philippine Space Agency (PhilSA) aims to expand its space data access for disaster response through its partnership with Japan and the United Nations, PhilSA Director General Joel Marciano, Jr. said.

According to the Philippine Embassy in Tokyo, PhilSA recently signed a memorandum of cooperation (MoC) with Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

The memo provides a framework for space applications, satellite development, space environment utilization, capacity building for space-related technology development, space policy and legislation, space science and space exploration, and promotion of space industry.

“The Japanese, of course, are able to put up satellites and they contribute data to the Philippines at times of emergencies and disasters,” Marciano said.

“So what we’re trying to do with this cooperation is strengthen ‘yung ating capabilities also to act on the data, to further add value on the data and bring it to the hands of our decision-makers and emergency responders,” he added.

With the signing of the MoC, PhilSA will have more opportunities to reshape and enhance their programs for the benefit of the country, Marciano stressed.

The agency wants to provide information availability that can also address problems of ordinary citizens, he added.

“‘Yung tulong po doon sa mga kababayan natin perhaps is not as direct in terms of this observation satellites but the information can get in the hands of our scholars, local government officials and our decision-makers, which can help farmers, fishermen in terms of their activities and also in recovering from emergencies and disasters,” Marciano said.

Satellites help people gather information about the Earth’s natural calamities and disasters such as typhoons and volcanic eruptions, but recently it has been used to obtain information about the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

The Diwata-2, a microsatellite equipped with a high-precision telescope, a space-borne multispectral imager, and enhanced resolution cameras helped determine the relationship between the air quality and COVID-19 cases in the country.

It showed that cities in the National Capital Region that are most likely exposed to high levels of nitrogen dioxide, a gaseous pollutant from cars that burn fossil fuels, also had high COVID-19 cases.

Meanwhile, the agency’s memorandum of understanding with the United Nations Office of Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) will allow PhilSA to access and contribute to the United Nations Platform for Space-based Information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response (UN-SPIDER).

UN-SPIDER is an initiative of UNOOSA that aims to use space-based information to support countries in times of disaster.

“It is a good partnership in the sense that we can leverage on these resources that are available at the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs that will support our activities in capacity-building, training, [and] creating better awareness,” Marciano said.

Marciano said that with these agreements, the agency also aims to create awareness of the value of space policy and law among Filipinos.

However, PhilSA is still in the process of crafting plans in terms of promoting national defense through space technology, Marciano said.

PhilSA was established in 2019 under Republic Act No. 11363 or the Philippine Space Act, mandated to address the country’s issues and activities related to space science and technology.

Topics: Philippine Space Agency , PhilSA , disaster response , Japan , United Nations
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