AsianScientist (Feb. 15, 2019) – The Philippines is a step closer to having its own space agency as its Senate has recently approved the Philippine Space Agency Bill (PhilSA Bill) without amendment on its second reading. The bill will be tackled for its third and final reading on May 2019. Once approved, the bill will have to be reconciled with the House of Representatives’ version at the Bicameral Conference (combined Congress) for the President to sign into law.
Once established, the Philippine Space Agency will be the main government agency to tackle issues and activities related to space science and technology applications from crafting and implementing the country’s space policy to undertaking research and development programs and representing the country in international space-related forums and organizations.
The Philippine Department of Science and Technology (DOST), together with the advocates of PhilSA, are optimistic that the law will be passed before the end of the 17th Congress this June 2019.
“The passage of the bill will boost our capabilities when it comes to space research and development and utilization. We can do more and give to the Filipino more with a central agency that will be taking our journey to space with a central focus and mission,” said Dr. Enrico Paringit, Executive Director of the Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development, in a press conference.
In the same briefing, DOST Secretary Professor Fortunato de la Peña said that the DOST is looking forward to developing and fabricating satellites locally. In recent years, the Philippines has been actively sending out satellites into space. These are Diwata-1 and 2, and Maya-1. All of these are designed and developed by Filipino researchers in partnership with Japanese institutions.
Dr. Rogel Mari Sese, an astrophysicist and the leader of the Philippine National SPACE Development Program, believes that PhilSA will benefit numerous sectors in the Philippines, including defense and security for communications and surveillance, disaster management and weather forecasting, communications and broadcasting, environmental management and land use monitoring, agriculture and fisheries, as well as the transportation sector.
In an email interview, he emphasized that PhilSA will be different from other countries’ space agencies and programs.
“We’re not re-inventing the wheel, but rather we are looking at what would be the best [approach] that would suit our needs and capabilities. We are looking at what would be the most beneficial for the Philippines and for all Filipinos in terms of space technology and applications since we want the space program to have a significant impact and effect in improving our society and addressing our various socio-economic problems,” said Sese.
Sese thinks that getting the PhilSA Bill passed is the easy part. The real challenge, according to him, is running the agency.
“The mandate of a space agency spans not only developing new innovations and technologies, but also encompasses providing operational services and addressing the space services needs of other government agencies, spurring the growth of a local space industry,” he explained.
He further noted that the PhilSA needs to look into the long-term goals of the Philippine space program, inspire and teach younger Filipinos about space, establish collaborations with other countries in the world and address space laws and treaties. In doing so, the agency can become a responsible space actor and a contributing member of the global space community.
“All of this has to be done at the same time that the PhilSA will be established and will be creating its new home, and within the ever-changing geopolitical environment in the Philippines and the rest of the world,” he said.
Currently, three of the top space agencies are located in Asia, the Chinese National Space Agency, the Indian Space Research Organization, and JAXA, the Japanese space agency. If the PhilSA is established, the Philippines will join the ranks of its neighboring countries in ASEAN with their own space agencies, namely, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore and Vietnam.
Copyright: Asian Scientist Magazine; Photo: Official Gazette of the Republic of the Philippines/Wikimedia Commons/CC0.
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