MANILA (UPDATE) — Filipino scientists will soon be able to make better analysis and provide policy makers with necessary information on climate change, natural disasters and other phenomena.
This after the Philippines entered a space cooperation program with the European Union which would enable authorities to develop systems to utilize data from the EU’s earth observation satellites.
The Copernicus Capacity Support Action Program for the Philippines (CopPhil) is the first space cooperation program in the Asian region which aims to provide the country with space data using Copernicus and its different sentinels.
Copernicus is a cornerstone of the EU’s efforts to monitor through satellites the earth and its ecosystems to help ensure preparedness for natural or man-made crises and disasters.
Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Secretary Renato Solidum emphasized the importance of data-sharing with the EU through CopPhil not only in the context of disasters and calamities.
“The Philippines is very rich in various natural resources. We also need to make sure economy is protected by making sure that science will actually lead to better decisions making and warning. It will not only save lives but more importantly protect livelihood. This project essentially will enable us to get data as soon as possible as the data infrastructure is being improved by the Philippine Space Agency,” he said.
In an ANC interview on Tuesday, Solidum said the grant aims to increase awareness in the use of information from the world's biggest earth observation set of satellites.
"This would also mean we will develop a mirror site in the Philippines, which is the second in the world's partnership after Panama where we will be able to actually make this data available to various organizations and researchers in the Philippines," he told "Rundown".
"With this partnership, there will be available training and scholarship opportunities for Filipino engineers and scientists," he added.
Data from Copernicus are culled from sentinels, a dedicated constellation of satellites and other third-party satellites known as "contributing space missions".
The sentinels have different focus in terms of imaging which includes weather, urban, forest and agricultural land, ocean monitoring, and atmospheric composition monitoring including pollution.
Philippine Space Agency Director-General Dr. Joel Joseph Marciano explained that the partnership with the EU would be helpful in gaining a better understanding of the country’s environment and fostering better international cooperation.
“The Philippines is contributing data as well to this repository. Satellite imagery is one thing but we need to validate things on the ground. That is the meaning of this reciprocity. The data has been open to us and we will contribute data as well from our own satellites, the Diwata 2 and other satellites that are found into the fray of the PH,” Marciano said.
Solidum said data from CopPhil would also affect response and recovery efforts.
“We will be making sure that we maximize the assistance provided by the EU. I can now see the enormous volume of data. They saw in us the need to address many concerns like disasters and climate change,” he said.
Marciano noted how data culled from satellite images worked to the benefit of rescue workers during natural disasters, especially in the wake of the 2018 landslide in Naga, Cebu.
“You can also get pre-disaster images of the area. Algorithms are used to detect features of satellite images for example, building footprints. That would prove crucial because before we have the image of the landslide we have over layered the images of the building footprints in the area. And immediately turned this around to responders on the ground who were desperately trying to look for survivors.”
Aside from risk mapping, detecting potential hazards and rapid response, CopPhil can also provide data on changes in the environment and aid in the development of strategies to mitigate impacts of climate change.
The program, funded by the EU and implemented by the European Space Agency, is worth 10 million euros or approximately P610 million. Expected to last for at least three years, it will support four different areas including awareness; data infrastructure; uptake of data and information; and skills development.
EU Ambassador to the Philippines Luc Veron said the initiative was a starting point for a larger program on “digital connectivity.”
“In the long term, the European Union is exploring the possibility to create a network of Copernicus partners in the ASEAN region aside from other parts of the world. The uptake of innovative technologies such as Copernicus will trigger growth, jobs, and modernization of digital infrastructure that can be used in many sectors in the Philippines,” Veron said.