Copernicus Programme: Easy access alternative technology in the Philippines
NOTES FROM THE EU DELEGATION - Franz Jessen (The Philippine Star) - March 28, 2019 - 12:00am

The Philippines, as well as all other countries, stands to benefit from reliable monitoring of its  natural and urban environment. The El Niño phenomenon, unpredictable weather patterns, road traffic conditions, ocean’s parameters and the state of natural forests – all these and more can easily be monitored and accessed through the Copernicus Programme of the European Union. 

What is the Copernicus Programme? It is a programme which offers a high-speed performance and efficient operational infrastructure to monitor natural and urban environment, to perform complex data analysis, to simulate future impact scenarios, and to make informed decisions.  It has seven sentinel satellites that capture high-quality data which can yield over 16 terabyte of high-quality full, free and open earth observation data per day.

The sensors on the Copernicus’ sentinel satellites can determine features down to 5 to 10m which means that even though one cannot see every tree or small building, it is accurate enough to give a mapping of areas such as the whole of the Philippines, for example.  

To top all these, this technology offers its data for free; it is readily available and easily accessible. Therefore it is extremely useful in land and atmospheric monitoring, marine and maritime environment monitoring, climate change and emergency civil protection and security. It serves as a useful tool for research, development and application expertise.   

To introduce the Copernicus programme in the Philippines, the EU Delegation to the Philippines held the “National Conference on Copernicus Systems and Applications” for the first time on March 11.  

The conference gathered about 100 scientists, technologists, environment and urban planners, local government workers and businesspeople. 

The presence of Deputy Director General of the National Security Council Vicente Agdamag who represented Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon;  Science and Technology Undersecretary Renato Solidum; technical experts Dr. Alice Laborte from the International Rice Research Institute and Paolo Corradi from the European Space Agency, among others, reflected the enthusiasm of various organisations in technology and research. Initial feedback following the conference was encouraging. There was a high-level of interest expressed in vulnerability mapping particularly in poverty and gender issues; marine plastic waste; agriculture; urban planning and atmospheric pollution warnings.

As far as usage in the region is concerned, the International Rice Research Institute has been utilizing this technology in crop monitoring, health and disease control and rice yield impact scenarios under climate change. As a result of this, Copernicus has been able to aid in coming up with a food security system across the region. 

And as if these are not enough, Copernicus is also able to make use of open street emergency mapping and can therefore be very vital in the event of disasters such as typhoons and in the event of drought.  The technology is able to model and visualise available water resources capacity, monitor pollution sources and movements, land and water management reserves, determining upcoming rainfalls, temperature variations and predict pathways of marine litter to aid in decision-making. 

The functions of Copernicus are certainly endless and its applications can be tailored to the needs of specific users. Building on the foundations of deeply-rooted scientific knowledge and on decades of EU investment in research and technological development, Copernicus is exemplary of European strategic cooperation in space research and development.  Since 2014, it has invested   €9.6 billion in the programme with an additional €5.8 billion allocation proposed for 2021 to 2027.

Copernicus may not provide an ultimate solution to all of the global challenges but it is certainly one big step that every sector should consider in land and atmosphere monitoring, emergency management, climate change service, marine environment monitoring and security services. The European Union Delegation to the Philippines would be delighted if the Philippines will take a serious and closer look at what the Copernicus Programme has to offer.

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(Franz Jessen is the Ambassador of the European Union.)

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