EU brings Copernicus Programme to the PHL

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THE EUROPEAN UNION (EU) Delegation to the Philippines has brought the EU Earth Observation Copernicus Programme to the country in hopes that the data will help the Philippines address environmental monitoring requirements in various industries and sectors.

“I think trying to get a basic understanding at the moment of the potential of Copernicus in the Philippines is the first step, and then identifying the agencies who would like to engage,” Alan Mills, the team leader of the National Conference on Copernicus Technology and Applications, told the media during the event held on Monday at the Dusit Thani Manila hotel in Makati City.

Mr. Mills added that they expect to hold “meaningful dialogues for the next 12 months or so” in order to identify where the program will be utilized.

The Copernicus Programme is the EU’s Earth observation program coordinated and managed by the European Commission in partnership with the European Space Agency (ESA), EU member states and EU agencies.

The program, which became fully operational in 2014, provides earth observation data for six core services — land monitoring, atmosphere monitoring, emergency management services, climate change service, marine environment monitoring and security services.

“This is the most ambitious, complete and comprehensive observation program in the world today,” Stephen Coulson, head of the sustainable initiatives office at ESA, said during his presentation, adding that the program’s seven satellites called “Sentinels” can provide a myriad of measurements and information about the planet including chlorophyll, sea level height, and carbon monoxide levels, among others.

All of the information are free of charge and accessible via cloud-enabled platforms.

Despite being in the very early stages of introducing the program to the Philippines, Ugo Cortesi of the Italian National Research Center division on Copernicus said in the same event that the “initial response was positive.”

“We’ve already started some bilateral discussions with some key agencies [like the] DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources), the Climate Change Commission and the DOST (Department of Science and Technology). The initial response was positive. And that also led us to the idea to organize this conference to deepen the discussion,” he said.

The Monday conference was attended by more than 100 government officials from aligned departments in the Philippines.

“In the perspective of the Department of Science and Technology, space technology application is a tool that can be cross-cutting in terms of obligation,” Renato U. Solidum, Jr., DOST undersecretary for Disaster Risk Reduction, told BusinessWorld on the sidelines of the conference.

He noted that the country, which also runs its own space program and have launched two microsatellites and one cube satellite, is also doing what Copernicus is doing — getting and interpreting data for use in disaster risk reduction or management with additional applications to industries such as agriculture — but that in terms of scale, the EU has been doing this for much longer.

“So for me, the Copernicus programme is a welcome program and we will find out where we can actually work together,” Mr. Solidum said, although noting that a formal meeting has yet to be hold or set.

The Philippines was named the third most disaster prone country after Vanuatu and Tonga, according to the 2018 United Nations Risk Report. The country is particularly affected by sea-level rise, as well as by cyclones and earthquakes.

Aside from disaster risk management, National Security Adviser Hermogenes C. Esperon Jr., through Vicente M. Agdamag, the deputy director general of the National Security Council, noted in his keynote address that the Copernicus will also be beneficial in terms of national security as its satellites can also provide maritime surveillance. — Zsarlene B. Chua