By Martin A. Sadongdong
Officials of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) are looking forward to sustaining the agency’s momentum of the past year and begin in 2018 the groundwork for three key areas: Space technology, creation of technology-based start-up companies, and artificial intelligence (AI).
The DOST is in a position to pursue these programs after great strides in the past year.
Science Secretary Fortunato dela Peña said he “is happy with the support the agency has received” from the executive and legislative branches of the government throughout the past year and looks forward to laying the groundwork for other key areas of research and development (RnD). These include space technology, artificial intelligence and technology-based start-up companies.
“Of course, there are many things to do but I think these are the next big projects that the Filipinos should watch out for in 2018,” he said.
The DOST is also poised to have its own national space agency this year “as soon as the laws are passed.”
Dela Peña was talking about the House Bill 3637 and Senate Bill 1211, also known as the Philippine Space Act of 2016 filed last year by lawmakers. The said bills aim to establish a Philippine Space Development and Utilization Policy and our very own Philippine Space Agency.
With the establishment of a space agency, all RnD projects by various government agencies pertaining to space science and technology will be consolidated, thus, strengthening the country’s national security, disaster preparedness and management, and climate studies.
It expressed confidence that DIWATA-2, the second and improved version of the country’s first microsatellite DIWATA-1, will be launched in the second quarter of 2018.
DIWATA-1 will eventually “die” as it will disintegrate in space in the latter part of 2018 and the science department would want DIWATA-2 to take over its place.
DIWATA-1 was built by nine Filipino engineers of PHL-Microsat team funded by the DOST. It was deployed into space from the International Space Station (ISS) on April 27, 2016.
The DIWATA-1 has four built-in cameras namely: the High Precision Telescope (HPT), space-borne multi-spectoral imager, wide field camera and middle field camera, all designed to capture high resolution images primarily for disaster monitoring.
But the improved version of DIWATA-2 will have the same cameras with an additional enhanced resolution and an amateur radio unit for alternative means of communication. This could be used for disaster monitoring, according to Leonard Paet, part of the 11-man PHL-Microsat team building the Diwata-2 in cooperation with the Tohoku University and Hokkaido University in Japan.
Currently, Diwata-1 passes over the Philippines at least 45 times a day and has since captured 844 images of the different parts of the country, almost completing the entire images of the Philippines as seen from space.
Diwata-1 has been tracked to be moving at a speed of seven km per second around the orbit and has since orbited the Earth at least 5,000 times since it was deployed.
Late in January, the DOST saw one of the most challenging issues they faced when Project NOAH, the country’s flagship project on disaster risk reduction and mitigation, ended under its direct supervision.
Project NOAH started in 2011 and was launched in 2012 for disaster risk-reduction activities after the aftermath of Typhoon Sendong.
It operated through DOST’s arm agencies including Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa), Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs), and Advanced Science and Technology Institute (DOST-ASTI), in partnership with the UP National Institute of Geological Sciences and the UP College of Engineering.
However, the DOST had said that Project NOAH, just like any other research project, has a start and end date, which was supposed to be onFebruary 28 after it had “successfully delivered what it has promised to deliver.”
Later on, the Project NOAH was transferred and dispersed to different arm agencies to continue its operation. Seven projects were turned over to Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) namely the Coastal Hazards and Storm Surge Assessment and Mitigation; Disaster Management Using Web-GIS; Flood Information Network (FloodNet); Weather Information Integration for System Enhancement (WISE); Strategic Communication Intervention for the NOAH Program; and Disaster Risk and Exposure Assessment for Mitigation (DREAM).
Meanwhile, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) was entrusted with the Landslide Sensors Development Project where 103 landslide sensors have been installed in major river basins nationwide.
Dela Peña said asked the public to continue supporting the DOST in 2018 and vowed to return the trust the people have bestowed to the agency. After all, the Science department’s motto this 2017 is “Science for the People.”
“Ipagpatuloy natin ang suporta sa iba’t ibang programa ng pamahalaan lalo na ‘yung nakaka-encourage sa mga investors na pumunta sa atin. We are doing our best as far as local companies are concerned but I think the opportunity for expansion will be in terms of investments coming from the outside, who will engage our people in technology jobs,” Dela Peña ended.