PhilSA ushers in Philippinespace age
Rainier Allan Ronda (The Philippine Star) - August 22, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) will play a lead role in setting up the Philippine Space Agency (PhilSA), which came into existence with the signing of the Philippine Space Act by President Duterte.

Science Secretary Fortunato dela Pena said the crafting of the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of Republic Act 11363 must be done within 60 days.

The DOST chief said the signing of the law makes the Philippines one of the world’s space-faring nations.

“We learned... that it was signed on Aug. 8,” Dela Peña said.

“We would like to thank first of all the President for signing into law this landmark bill which will pave the way for the Philippines to join other nations which have their own space agencies,” he said.

Dela Peña noted that the law had called for convening of a group that will formulate the IRR. It was not specified who will compose this group.

“I’m writing a letter to the President and to the executive secretary because I think the initiative of calling the meeting should come from the Office of the President,” Dela Peña said. 

“The law creates a Philippine Space Development Fund to be used exclusively for the PhilSA. This will be administered by the director-general of PhilSA,” Dela Peña said in a press briefing at UP Diliman’s Electrical and Electronics Engineering Institute (EEEI) in mid-August.

The law, he said, earmarks P10 billion for PhilSA over five years. The fund will be sourced from the gross income of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. and the Bases Conversion and Development Authority.

This means that PhilSA will get an operations budget of a minimum P2 billion a year.

For this year, Dela Peña said the law mandates the President to appropriate P1 billion for the startup operations of the agency.

“It didn’t say here if this will just be spent for 2019. Mahirap gastahin ang P1 billion in four months,” he noted.

Dela Peña said one of the provisions of the law allows PhilSA to retain any income it will generate. He said that as much as 75 percent of any income from its activities can be retained by PhilSA for the improvement of facilities.

“It has many special provisions that other agencies do not enjoy,” he said.

Dela Peña said DOST has amply prepared for the Philippine Space Act and the creation of PhilSA with their steady investments supporting space technology research and development primarily in UP Diliman.

He said DOST’s investments into space R&D have amounted to P7.48 billion since 2010.

This investment, he said, had funded the successful efforts at building and launching into orbit of two microsatellites, Diwata 1 and Diwata 2, and nanosatellite Maya 1, from 2016 to 2018.

He said that ongoing efforts at building microsatellites, specifically cubesatellites, or cubesats, seek to have more “localization”of the satellite assembly here in the Philippines, with more parts fabricated by local fabricators.

The space R&D, he said, enabled DOST to build up a human resource pool of space science experts that can comprise the PhilSA workforce. 

National strategy needed

In Dagupan City, Pangasinan fourth district Rep. Christopher de Venecia said a national strategy for space development is needed to keep abreast with trends in space science and technology in key development areas such as agriculture, disaster risk reduction and telecommunications.

De Venecia, one of the prime movers of the original House measure and chairman of the technical working group at the House of Representatives of a new law creating the  PhilSA, said “The space development and utilization policy is vital to provide the country’s strategic roadmap for space development and perhaps, pave the way for the Philippines to become a space-faring nation, within the next 10 years.” 

Contrary to popular notion that a space agency is only for space explorers, De Venecia said that “A country prone to typhoons and other natural disasters like the Philippines will greatly benefit in space programs because this also involves improved disaster management; from gathering precise information that gives early warnings and prediction of disasters, to reliable and speedy communication during relief and recovery operations.”

De Venecia said that because of improved weather calculation due to space technology, the space program will likewise enhance production and profitability of agribusinesses, conserve and preserve the environment, and improve urban planning, transportation and communication. 

This law will also pave the way toward space research and development and ignite industry, further creating jobs and plug leakages to the brain drain of the science and technology sector, he said.

De Venecia has high hopes that with PhilSA, the Philippines will be one step closer to being not just space-capable, but space-faring. – With Eva Visperas

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