Senate OKs bill to strengthen space program
Cecille Suerte Felipe (The Philippine Star) - February 21, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Senate wants to strengthen the country’s space program by approving a bill on second reading which seeks to establish the Philippine Space Agency (PhilSA) since space technology could also enhance production and profitability of agribusiness.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III, Senators Bam Aquino and Loren Legarda introduced Senate Bill No. 1983, otherwise known as an Act Establishing the Philippine Space Development and Utilization Policy and Creating the Philippine Space Agency.

Aquino, who sponsored the bill, said the launching of a space program in the Philippines would give Filipinos a new perspective and valuable insights that could help solve some of the country’s biggest problems.

“Satellites can improve disaster management from providing accurate information that allow early warnings and predicting of disasters to reliable and quick communication during relief and recovery operations,” Aquino said in his sponsorship speech.

Space technology, he pointed out, could also enhance production and profitability of agribusinesses due to soil and weather monitoring and assessment. It could help conserve and preserve the environment, improve urban planning, transportation and communication networks.

The Philippines has been involved in space technology since the 1960s when the government built a satellite receiving station during the Marcos era. In the 1970s, the country also ventured on its first rocket development program.

In 1996, Filipino private firm Mabuhay Satellite Corp. acquired the country’s first in-orbit satellite, Agila-1, which was formerly owned by an Indonesian company. In 1997, the company had its own telecommunications satellite, Agila-2, which though developed by a US company was launched into space from China.

In 2014, the Philippine government partnered with universities in Japan to launch the first microsatellite developed by Filipinos, Diwata-1. The government was able to develop and send two more satellites, Diwata-2 microsatellite and Maya-1 cube satellite in 2018.

Insufficient funding and lack of a centralized agency to manage the space program have hindered the development of space technology in the country. Currently, several agencies under the Department of Science and Technology maintain the country’s space program. Other government departments also implement various space-related activities for agriculture, environment, communications, transportation and security.

Science Secretary Fortunato dela Peña said that with the department having poured adequate investments into space and satellite research and development projects in past years, this has led to successful capacity building and human resource development in space technology expertise that will be needed for the establishment of the PhilSA.

“We have spent millions in the education and training of our young scientists and engineers to enable them to acquire knowledge and skills to fabricate micro and nanosatellites as well as gather and process data obtained from these satellites to become useful,” Dela Peña said in a space industry forum held last Jan. 29 at Shangri-La at the Fort in Bonifacio Global City.If enacted into law, the Philippine Space Development and Utilization Policy stated in SB 1983 would serve as the Philippines strategic roadmap for space development. Aquino hopes the proposed legislation would propel the Philippines to be space-capable in the next decade. – With Rainier Allan Ronda

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