With Diwata-2 launch, will PHL see own space agency?

AS Filipinos waited for the launch of Japan’s H-IIA F40 rocket to set off the vastly improved Philippine microsatellite Diwata-2 into space on Monday, hopes ran high that the historic event will give lawmakers a sense of urgency to pass the Philippine Space Act that will set up the country’s space agency and boost the current microsatellite program.

Students, professors and other spectators went to different venues in the country to watch the live streaming of the launching where Diwata-2 is secondary payload piggybacked on the rocket together with the rest of the other satellites set for deployment.

At around 12:08 p.m., the crowd at the GT-Toyota Asian Center in Quezon City stood up and raised the Philippine flag in excitement to support the country’s own microsatellite journey in space. While not streamed live, Diwata-2 was successfully deployed in orbit at
621 kilometers altitude in space several minutes after the launch. It is now on standby mode as verified by the PHL-Microsat team.

Various locations of the live streaming were also held at Bicol University, Cebu Technical University and Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Office in Iloilo. Others also watched the live streaming on YouTube provided by the Japan Aerospace and Exploration Agency (Jaxa).

One student who watched the live streaming at Quezon City told the BusinessMirror that “it is an exciting time ahead for them as [high school] students who want to be in the astronomy and space engineering field.”

Another spectator, Jianne Libunao, who is currently a graduating architecture student from the University of Santo Tomas, told the BusinessMirror that she learned about the launch through her sudden interest in space due to her thesis, which is focused on designing the Philippine Space Agency.

“My hobby was just looking at the stars and here we are, looking forward to the future,” Libunao said. She added, “even though we can’t contribute scientifically, we as future architects can contribute and provide a space and design to build the space agency.”

Atsushi Kuwabara, minister and consul general at the Embassy of Japan in the Philippines who was also at the live streaming in Quezon City, enthused right after the program about the robust cooperation between Japan and the Philippines, calling it “very productive.”

According to him, “the collaboration between the universities is good for the future of the younger generation for both countries, so I hope this development, including the deployment of Diwata-2, will be successful and continue and even develop in the future.”

DOST Undersecretary Rowena Guevara emphasized that the launching of the microsatellites is not just for display. She stressed the Philippines is capable of launching these technologies in space but, “we would like to develop human resource needed in order for us to put up a Philippine Space Agency and for the Filipinos who will benefit from the data received from the satellites.”

Currently, the Phl-Microsat program has over 50 scientists and engineers who have obtained and will soon obtain their training and postgraduate studies, both masteral and doctoral degrees from various partner universities in Japan. This group will then train the next batch of space science and technology engineers for the subsequent satellite and space program, and implement localization to build Philippine satellites in our own laboratories in the country.

On the Philippine Space Agency issue, Guevara strongly urged legislators to approve the Philippine Space Act. She prefers that the law be passed this year. The agency is seen to be built on a proposed 30-hectare lot at Clark Green City in Pampanga. “If it gets approved this year, we can start building the whole agency and the program itself,” she told the BusinessMirror.




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