The European Union (EU) and the Philippines have teamed up to establish a space cooperation program aimed at enhancing the country’s disaster mitigation and climate change strategies.
A collaboration between two Philippine agencies—Department of Science and Technology (DoST) and Philippine Space Agency (PhilSA)—and the EU has resulted in the creation of the Copernicus Capacity Support Action Programme for the Philippines, or CoPhil, PhilSA Director-General Joel Joseph S. Marciano, Jr. announced on Monday.
The program, which is also the first in Asia, allows the Philippines to use the EU’s earth observation satellite data for disaster mitigation, food security, and climate change adaptation strategies.
Copernicus is an EU program that provides free environment and climate data from a constellation of satellites, known as Sentinels, as well as third-party satellites, known as contributing space missions. Its services also use on-site measurement data to complement its satellite data.
In the Philippines, Copernicus’ satellite images have already helped in the monitoring of the situations of communities in the aftermath of natural disasters or accidents like oil spills. This capability has helped authorities plan their disaster preparedness and mitigation programs.
“Open data from Copernicus – ‘Europe’s Eyes on Earth’ – has enabled access to suitable data… that is instrumental for decision-making and policy formulation,” PhilSA’s Mr. Marciano said
“Data from Sentinel-1, -2, and –5p, have been used in applications in flood, oil spill, ship, and volcanic emission monitoring; (they have also been used in the) mapping of canopy height, crops, land cover, and air and water quality,” he said at the launch.
CopPhil is a three-year program and is worth about P610 million, or €10 million. Its launch was supported by the European Commission’s Technical Assistance and Information Exchange Instrument, which promotes peer-to-peer interactions and technical exchanges between the administrations of EU member states as well as their partner countries.
“With the various applications that can be done, we will now have to use the Copernicus data for any major national issue that we would face,” DoST Secretary Renato U. Solidum told reporters.
“We can do that for earthquakes, volcanoes, or any other environmental issue…The real focus is on hazards assessment and information.”
Space data monitoring can also help protect economic development, Mr. Solidum added.
“Inflation is related to the cost of rice, yellow corn, sugar, and dairy, so we need to monitor their production, and the effect of natural hazards like El Niño or La Niña (on them),” he said.
“Science will lead to better decision-making,” Mr. Solidum also said. “We should not only save lives, but more importantly, livelihoods.”
According to Luc Véron, EU ambassador to the Philippines, Copernicus will improve capacities for a “stronger and more shock-resilient” Filipino economy and society.
“There are many reasons for choosing the Philippines,” he said.
“When you build a project on the use of earth observation data, and you have as one of its applications the mitigation of natural disasters…definitely, the Philippines is an obvious candidate,” he noted.
“But I would also say that the preparedness of the Philippines in terms of skills and infrastructure is something that (has allowed) the country to be a pioneer in the region.”
The EU is exploring the possibility of creating a network of Copernicus partners in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations region, Mr. Véron also said. — P.B.Mirasol