In a world tremendously changed by the Covid-19 pandemic, satellite data became more valuable than ever.
Information from satellites allows us to monitor the environment without breaking physical distancing restrictions. Navigation applications are being utilized in e-commerce and courier services, and without these, survival of businesses these days would be unimaginable.
During a virtual press briefing hosted by the Presidential Communications Operations Office through the Office of the Global Media and Public Affairs (OGMPA), Deputy Director General (DDG) Gay Jane Perez of the Philippine Space Agency explained the vital role of space science and technology in economic recovery from the crisis brought about by Covid-19.
“PhilSA continues to strengthen its flagship initiatives of space data mobilization and advanced satellite development since its creation two years ago. In collaboration with the Department of Science and Technology – Advanced Science and Technology Institute or DOST-ASTI, and the STAMINA4Space Program, Earth Observation and remote sensing data from the nation’s very own satellite, Diwata-2, mission partnership satellite NOVASAR, and other international satellite systems, are being processed, utilized, and disseminated to aid the experts and policy-makers in very important decision-making,” DDG Perez said.
Through a decadal survey, PhilSA determines the needs of the country and how space data and infrastructure could respond to these, by assessing, defining, and prioritizing satellite missions.
Use of satellite data amidst the pandemic
The PhilSA envisions a Filipino nation bridged, uplifted, and empowered through the peaceful uses of outer space. The agency is not losing sight of this vision, in spite of the pandemic. In fact, current space technologies and applications are being used for Covid-19.
Through PhilSA’s Space Data Dashboard, economic activities during the lockdown periods can be monitored and analyzed to guide policy-making.
Dr. Perez pointed out, the country stands to lose more if it stops building satellites now. She emphasized that sustaining satellite development and keeping the momentum going is what PhilSA needs to do in the middle of the pandemic to avoid going back to zero.
“In response to our country’s needs, these satellite data are being mobilized to assist in disaster management and response, monitor volcanic activities, keep an eye on our marine resources and territories, and observe the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic through road traffic and sea vessel monitoring,” DDG Perez said.
In her presentation, Dr. Perez noted that the investment cost for the country’s newest and biggest satellite in development, the Multispectral Unit for Land Assessment (MULA) satellite, is at USD34M. The potential value of data produced over the Philippines within a five-year lifetime for a single satellite or total investment gains is at USD280M. This means, the expected returns from the EO data derived from the MULA satellite is 8 times its investment cost.The MULA satellite will be used in agriculture, coastal and maritime monitoring, national security, and disaster management.
The Philippines is facing numerous environmental issues that impact food security, the economy, and human development. With MULA, PhilSA can mobilize advanced technology to respond to these challenges. Proactive approaches are being developed in dealing with issues on hazards, water quality, marine resources sustainability, and mitigating climate impacts to our vegetation and agricultural areas.
“The development of satellites is also the development of our people,” DDG Perez explained.
She adds that with satellite data, decision-making and policy planning could be more informed. Satellite data likewise allows for innovation, which later expands existing industries, creates new enterprises, and generates jobs.
About the Author
Airah Bombase is a Broadcasting student from the Laguna State Polytechnic University – Sta. Cruz and currently an editorial intern of SubSelfie.com.