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PH can become Hub of Space Tech in Southeast Asia, says astrophysicist

TAGUIG CITY, Philippines – The Philippines has the capability to become the hub of space technology and space applications in Southeast Asia where engineers, scientists, and industry stakeholders around the region can converge, instead of the country sending its professionals abroad to learn and be trained.
This was stated by astrophysicist Dr. Rogel Mari D. Sese in an interview with the media after a press conference for the 23rd Session of the Asia-Pacific Regional Space Agency Forum (APRSAF-23) held at the Sofitel Philippines Plaza Manila from November 15-18, 2016.
Sese is the focal person for the Philippine Space Science Education Program of the Department of Science and Technology-Science Education Institute (DOST-SEI).
“These are the areas where we would like to have an impact thru space technologies: national security and development, hazard management and climate studies, space industry and capacity building, and education,” DOST Secretary Fortunato T. de la Peña revealed at the press conference.
He added that government has earmarked P1B for space technology from 2017-2018, after which the yearly allocation would be around P2B.
Meanwhile, the government invested around P840M prior to the launching of Diwata 1 – the first microsatellite designed and built by Filipinos, and deployed into orbit from the International Space Station in April 27, 2016.
“The initial strategy is to send our scholars abroad,” de la Peña added. “The best strategy is to institute some academic programs here in the Philippines and that might involve the invitation of some foreign experts to help us initialize some of these programs. But eventually, we hope that we will be able to train our own.”
“We’re looking toward building our own space industry,” shared Sese. We are a little bit behind. But if we do things right, we can take the lead in the Southeast Asian region.”
Sese, a member of the APRSAF Space Environment Utilization Working Group, claimed that having a space industry in the Philippines will translate to jobs not only for astrophysicists, engineers, and others directly involved with the space industry, but also for support personnel.
“It had been stated that we need around 800 aerospace engineers and scientists in the next 10 years. Studies have shown that for every one person that is directly involved in the space field, there are four other people who serve as support personnel,” Sese explained.
With a local space industry generating a lot of jobs, the brain drain that currently characterizes local manpower will hopefully be put to a halt.
“The Philippines is pursuing this space technology development because we are also asking our lawmakers to have a bill approved for the creation of a Philippine space agency and a national space development program for the next ten years,” said APRSAF Co-chair and DOST Usec. Rowena Cristina L. Guevara. “I assure you space technology is very useful for this country.”
Said bills are House Bill 3637 and Senate Bill 1211 which both aim to legislate a Philippine Space Development and Utilization Policy and create a Philippine Space Agency.
Aside from the Philippine Science Education Program, SEI is also in constant collaboration with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency for several space awareness programs for local schools, and is currently working toward including space education in the K-12 curriculum for both elementary and high school levels, among others.
The APRSAF, which the country is co-hosting with Japan for the first time, is the largest space-related conference in Asia-Pacific attended by space agencies, government bodies, international organizations, companies, and research institutes in the region.

Criselda Cabangon David, a happy mother of two kids, is a full-time Sociologist at the City Government of Lucena, Quezon Province. She is currently the Managing Editor of Ang Diaryo Natin Sunday News, a weekly local community newspaper in the Philippines and an active member of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines.