The European Union (EU) is pursuing its Copernicus and Galileo space programs in the Philippines to help the country respond to disasters, environmental challenges and even the Covid-19 pandemic.
In a news release, the EU Delegation to the Philippines announced during its recent webinar dubbed, “Beyond the Stars, Reach out to the Skies,” the deployment of the National Copernicus Capacity Support Action Program for the Philippines (CopPhil) in the third quarter of 2021.
Jointly developed by the EU Delegation and the Department of Science and Technology, CopPhil is a €10-million (P580 million) effort, to be implemented by the European Space Agency and the Philippine Space Agency (PhilSA).
Giovanni Serritella, EU Delegation’s cooperation section program manager, said the CopPhil—a pioneering initiative in the Asean—is designed to strengthen the country’s disaster risk preparedness and climate change adaptation.
The webinar presented how the Copernicus and Galileo space programs and other space technologies help in disaster risk prevention in the Philippines, whose location within the ring of fire subject it to volcanic and seismic instability and strong typhoons.
EU’s Earth observation program Copernicus offers free information that it draws from the satellite Earth Observation and non-space-based data on the ground and at sea.
Meanwhile, Galileo, its Global Satellite Navigation System or the “European GPS,” provides accurate positioning and timing information.
Related story: https://businessmirror.com.ph/2020/02/09/copernicus-space-program-to-boost-earth-observation-projects-in-phl/
Satellites aid during emergencies
The Philippines benefited from the Copernicus Emergency Management Service (EMS) during the Taal Volcano eruption and the onslaught of Typhoons Lando (international code name Koppu), Ompong (Mangkhut) and Rolly (Goni) last year.
Science Secretary Fortunato T. de la Peña said in his keynote speech during the webinar that for years now Filipino scientists and engineers have also been using data and user products from Copernicus satellites through the Sentinel Australasia Regional Access.
These data, he noted, are used for coastal resources management, crop monitoring and food security, among other applications, providing substantial benefits to Filipinos.
“Calamities continue to pose threats to lives and livelihoods of many Filipinos. To address these, we pursue relevant research and development programs and develop innovate and develop [science, technology and innovation]-based solutions to build disaster-resilient communities, while enhancing our coordination and response to these challenges,” de la Peña said.
At the onset of the pandemic, the Copernicus program also provided information on the impact of Covid-19 to the environment and the link between climatic conditions and the spread of the virus.
The EU Delegation said the EMS continues to use satellite imagery and other geospatial data to offer free mapping service during natural disasters, man-made emergency situations and humanitarian crises throughout the world.
“Our joint action in the field of Earth Observation data is a key deliverable in the context of the EU’s Indo-Pacific Strategy,” said EU Delegation to the Philippines Ambassador Luc Véron.
“It will directly enhance connectivity between Europe and the Asean and respond to the immediate needs of the Philippines [as it is] also an expression of our cooperation to mitigate the economic and human effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and work toward ensuring an inclusive and sustainable socio-economic recovery,” Véron said.
“Geopositioning data from the Galileo and Earth observation data from the Copernicus can help in many applications,” said Miguel Exposito Verdejo, deputy head of unit of the Directorate General for International Partnerships of the European Commission.
These include “transport to locate a vehicle without a driver in a specific area; position farming when using fertilizer to determine which crops need more nitrogen; getting medicine to remote areas; and even in the Covid-19 pandemic response.”
Exposito also said the European Commission will continue to launch five sentinel missions in the next four years, renew sentinels and enhance and increase cooperation to create a more robust ecosystem that provides more reliable data.
Meanwhile, PhilSA Director-General Joel Joseph S. Marciano Jr. pointed out how the sentinel satellites of the Copernicus program, particularly the Sentinel-1, aided in the flood-damage assessment in Cagayan after the onslaught of Typhoons Rolly and Ulysses (international code name Vamco).
These satellites provided data and processing images to detect potentially-flooded areas, he said.
Marciano added that the Sentinel-3 captured images before and after the Taal Volcano eruption last year, which helped determine the extent of damage in nearby areas.
Also among the panelists at the webinar was Dávid Szesztai, head of Department for Space Activities of Hungary’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Hosted by Erasmus scholar Stephanie B. Tumampos, who is specializing in Copernicus technology and is a BusinessMirror photographer and Science correspondent, the webinar was supported by the Manila Observatory, Earth Shaker Philippines, Alliance for Safe, Sustainable and Resilient Environments and Philippine Astronomical Society.