Monday, February 18, 2008

United Nations to help Philippines in applying space technology to disaster preparedness

The United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) will provide the Philippines’ Department of Science and Technology (DOST) with full support to establish a roadmap for capacity-building and the implementation of space technology application programs in disaster response and management.

At a meeting with the Philippine delegation, UN Office for Outer Space Affairs (OOSA) chief Mazlan Othman vowed support for the development of the Philippines’ space technology applications, after the National Congresses on Space Technology Applications and Research (NC-STAR) identified the country’s roadmap.

A major focus of the Philippine participation in COPUOS involves securing access to space technologies in disaster response and management through the recently established UN Platform for Space-Based Information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response (UN-SPIDER).

Established in 2006, the UN-SPIDER program seeks to provide countries with ready access to space-based data for use in all phases of the disaster management cycle and helps reduce the loss of lives and property during natural calamities.

The Philippines considers the UN-SPIDER a priority program, given the country’s vulnerability to natural and man-made disasters.

The Office of Civil Defense (OCD) and the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) have been designated as national focal points for Philippine participation in the UN-SPIDER program which will maintain offices in Bonn, Germany; Beijing, China; and Geneva, Switzerland.

The DOST and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) agreed that much work remains to be done to inform the average Filipino of the relevance of outer space technologies, not only in addressing profound development challenges, but also in making possible day-to-day activities such as long-distance phone calls and short messaging (texting).

Ambassador to Austria Linglingay Lacanlale, who sits as Philippine Permanent Representative to the UN COPUOS, said that although the COPUOS addresses highly technical matters such as space debris mitigation, near-earth objects, global navigation satellite systems (GNSS), and compliance with the UN outer space treaties, it also pursues valuable initiatives to enable countries without active space programs, such as the Philippines, to gain access to space technologies and useful applications.

The Philippines highlighted the important role of space technology in supporting sustainable development in developing countries at the ongoing 45th Session of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee (STSC) of the UN COPUOS.

Speaking at the two-week session, DOST Senior Science Research Specialist Dr. Jose Edgardo Aban commended the UN for promoting international cooperation in outer space matters through the COPUOS, making it possible even for developing countries to benefit from the application of space technologies to critical development-related concerns and quality-of-life issues.

Aban, senior science research specialist of the DOST’s Committee on Space Technology Applications (COSTA), presented the Philippine position on space-system-based disaster management support.

He also informed the UN on the Philippines’ efforts to revitalize the domestic space technology applications sector under the biennial NC-STAR.

Convened by the DOST in 2005 and 2007, the NC-STAR has to date resulted in a road map for capacity-building and implementation of space technology application programs in the Philippines, within the context of the goals enunciated under the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Water Sector Development Strategy (WSDS), and the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS).



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