By Ibarra C. Mateo
The European Union’s Copernicus, the bloc’s flagship space program and the Philippines are working jointly to further enhance space cooperation to assist the country in hazard management, disaster mitigation strategies, and improve climate change response, it was announced Wednesday / Feb. 5, 2020.
The Copernicus space program monitors and provides vital information on the earth’s environment and its ecosystems from integrated space and ground-based airborne and seaborne-measured data.
During the January 2020 Taal Volcano eruptions, the Copernicus mapping technology assisted Philippine scientists in making volcanic forecasts.
The European Commission’s Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC) of the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) had used Copernicus’ mapping system to provide accurate rapid and spatially explicit information on the hazards, exposure, and vulnerability surrounding the activities of Taal Volcano, the EU said in a statement release on Wednesday evening.
Officials of Copernicus and the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) have been collaborating since early 2019 to develop “a national capacity support program on Copernicus for the Philippines.”
“This prospective new cooperation aims to address the key objectives of the Philippine government to develop and utilize earth observation satellite applications to enhance hazard management and disaster mitigation strategies and to further strengthen the country’s resilience to climate change,” it said.
On Feb. 6, the second national conference on “Copernicus – a strategic partner for Earth Observation and sustainable development” will be held in Makati.
Participants to the national conference will discuss prominent aspects of science, innovation, and technology to support sustainable development.
They will also tackle the benefits of satellite remote sensing and space data management for disaster management, environmental protection, and climate change adaptation.
The EU statement said the conference will “serve as a platform to enable agencies, organizations, and multiple stakeholders in the Philippines to engage more closely with the European space sector.”
Dr. Philippe Brunet, former EU director for space policy, Copernicus Program, and defense, and now principal advisor to the EU Directorate for Cooperation and Development and DOST Secretary Fortunato de la Peña will provide keynote addresses.
Rafael de Bustamante, chargé d’affaires of the EU Delegation to the Philippines, will open the conference.
The space and earth monitoring services by Copernicus are “more vital than ever especially for a disaster-prone country like the Philippines,” the EU said.
“The uniqueness of the Copernicus program is its ability to monitor the earth to ensure that citizens are prepared and protected during natural or man-made disasters,” the statement said.
In addition to providing high-resolution global spatial coverage, the Copernicus program promotes full, free and open use of its information to all its users and the general public.
By making the vast majority of its data and maps freely available and accessible, Copernicus contributes towards the development of innovative applications and services, tailored to the needs of specific groups of users, and covering a variety of economic and developmental activities from urban planning and marine protection to disaster reduction and management.
Data captured by orbiting satellites can be analyzed and processed in real-time to become weather forecasting, climatic, environmental, and geological monitoring information. This helps in determining upcoming rainfalls and temperature variations, as well as identifying land degradation, resource extraction, spread of insect borne-diseases, crop yields, or managing disasters, among other areas.
Many of these information are also available to end users on their personal laptops or smartphones.
“Building on the foundations of deeply-rooted scientific knowledge and on decades of EU investment in research and technological development, Copernicus is exemplary of European strategic cooperation in space research and industrial development,” the EU said.
Since its operation in 2014, the European Union has already invested €9.6 billion in the Copernicus program with an additional €5.8 billion allocation proposed for 2021–2027.
The program is generating economic benefits exceeding the investment not to mention a vast plethora of non-monetary benefits, the EU said.
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