THE LAUNCH of the first gateway connecting the Philippines with the Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) satellite network has been delayed beyond June, with the company yet to firm up the site for its gateway, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said.

Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez told reporters on the sidelines of the recently-concluded Manufacturing Summit that the timeline for the Philippine launch of SpaceX, which is controlled by Elon Musk, has slipped beyond the original target, which was sometime within the term of President Rodrigo R. Duterte.  

The gateway links the internet service to low-earth orbit (LEO) satellites, a network known as Starlink, also operated by SpaceX.

“(The first gateway) might not make it (by the end of the Presidential term),” Mr. Lopez said, noting that the site and construction plans have not been finalized.”

Mr. Lopez could not give an estimate for the SpaceX investment, saying that the company has made no such disclosures.

The DTI had estimated that the first SpaceX gateway will be operational before the end of President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s term on June 30.

It added that the entry of SpaceX was accelerated by the passage of the amendments to the Public Service Act (PSA), which relaxed the restrictions on full foreign ownership of telecommunications, shipping, airline, railway, and subway businesses. These industries were previously subject to a 40% foreign equity cap under the 1987 Constitution.

Separately, Mr. Lopez also told reporters that the private sector-led Center for Artificial Intelligence, which took in funding of about $20 million, will be inaugurated by the second half.

For budget reasons, “We decided to make this private-sector led. Our partners have just decided to inaugurate the center towards the second half of this year,” Mr. Lopez said.

An earlier timeline for the center’s launch also slipped because of the impact of the national elections.

“This is one center that can help upgrade and push for more innovation, make use of AI tools for enterprises to really upgrade their competitiveness. At the same time, this can create more exposure for our data scientists, those educated in preparation for AI and data science… will have a (venue) to excel (for the benefit of) the industry and improved innovation,” Mr. Lopez said. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave