Philippine space program

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A cube satellite inside a room.
Diwata-1 satellite

The space program of the Philippines is decentralized and is maintained by various agencies of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) though a centralized Philippine Space Agency is set to be established after the "Philippine Space Act" (Republic Act 11363) was signed into law on 8 August 2019. The space program is funded through the National SPACE Development Program by the DOST. Early Philippine initiatives in space technology has been led by private firms although in the recent years the government has played a more active role.

The Philippines has been involved in space technology since the 1960s, when the government built an Earth satellite receiving station by the administration of then-President Ferdinand Marcos. It was also during the latter part of this period that a Filipino private firm acquired the country's first satellite, Agila-1 which was launched as an Indonesian satellite.[1] In the 1990s, Mabuhay had Agila 2 launched to space from China.

In the 2010s, the Philippine government partnered with the Tohoku and Hokkaido Universities of Japan to launch the first satellite designed by Filipinos, Diwata-1. Diwata-1 is a microsatellite.[2] The government was able to develop and send two more small-scale satellites, Diwata-2 and Maya-1.


Logo of the Department of Science and Technology
Agencies under the Department of Science and Technology manage the country's space program.

The Philippine space program has two primary challenges: ①insufficient funding & ② lack of a centralized agency to manage the space program.[3]

In an absence of a formal space agency, the DOST funds a National Space Development Program to set up the foundations of a future space agency.[4] Several government agencies under the DOST currently maintains the country's space program are the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (NAMRIA), and the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC)[5][6][7]. The DOST and the Manila Observatory crafted a 10-year masterplan in 2012 to make the Philippines a "space-capable country" by 2022.[8]

The scientists gave the media a copy of a draft bill written by Deocaris which they submitted to AGHAM party-list Rep. Angelo Palmones of the 15th Congress (26 July 2010 – 6 June 2013) for the enactment of what is to be known the "Philippine Space Act of 2012" (House Bill No. 6725).[9]

Founding of a unified agency[edit]

The Philippine Space Agency is proposed to be established through legislation particularly through the 17th Congress (25 July 2016 – 4 June 2019)'s "Philippine Space Act of 2016" (House Bill 3637)[10] and "Philippine Space Act" (Senate Bill No. 1211).[11] On 27 November 2018, The House of Representatives passed the alternative bill, the "Philippine Space Development Act" (HB 8541)[12], on the 2nd reading. "The bill also provides for a Philippine Space Development and Utilization Policy (PSDUP) that shall serve as the country’s primary strategic roadmap for space development and embody the country’s central goal of becoming a space-capable and space-faring nation in the next decade." Under HB 8541, at least 30 hectares will be allocated to the new PhilSA for an official site within the Clark Special Economic Zone in Pampanga and Tarlac.[13] DOST Secretary Fortunato dela Peña seems to favor HB 8541[14]

As of December 2018, HB 8541 has been approved on the third and final reading with 207 affirmative votes with no votes against or abstentions. It will be attached to the DOST and the bill also creates the Philippine Space Development Fund to be used exclusively for its operation. The astronomical space-related functions of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and DOST will also be transferred to the Philippine Space Agency, under the bill.[15]

The "Philippine Space Act" (Senate Bill 1983) was passed with 18 senators approving for the proposed legislation's passage with no negative votes in May 2019,[16] hence dedicating ₱1bil from the current fiscal year's appropriation with subsequent funding from the General Appropriations Act, plus an additional ₱1bil from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) & Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) with ₱2bil released annually.[17] The Bicameral Committee ratified HB 8541 on 4 June 2019 placing the space agency under the DOST. The proposed legislation (a harmonization of HB 8541 & SBN 1983) was due for signing into law by President Rodrigo Duterte.[18] The Senate info-page for Senate Bill 1983 reports presentation of the harmonized bill to the Presidential Malacañang Palace on 9 July 2019.[19] The "Philippine Space Act" (Republic Act 11363) was signed into law by Pres. Duterte on 8 August 2019.[20][21]

The immediate goals of the agency excludes launching its own rockets as does United States' NASA and Japan's JAXA although it does anticipate doing so.[22]


Earlier developments[edit]

The Manila Observatory was established during the Spanish colonial period in 1865 and was the only formal meteorological and astronomical research and services institution in the Philippines until the founding of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) in 1972.[4]

Early space program initiatives[edit]

Efforts to establish a Philippine space program dates as early as in the 1960s, when US President Lyndon Johnson discussed with Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos in 1966 about the possibility of establishing a joint US–Philippine space program to monitor storms in Asia. If such plans have pushed through it would have been the first time Asians get involved in space activities.[23]

In the mid-1960s, the Philippine Communications Satellite (Philcomsat) was established when the Marcos government built an Earth satellite receiving station.[24] Philcomsat was a founding member of Intelsat, an international satellite consortium.[25] It also had an exclusive franchise for satellite communication in Southeast Asia, as well as in Korea and Japan. It was also responsible for providing the equipment which enabled people in Asia to watch the Apollo 11 launch, which took place in July 16, 1969.[26] The wholly government-owned company became a private corporation in 1982.[24]

On April 23, 1980, the Philippines became one of the initial 11 signatories to the Moon Treaty.[4]

PASI and Mabuhay's satellite ventures[edit]

Artist impression of a satellite orbiting Earth
Agila-2, the first launched satellite of the Philippines. The satellite now operates as ABS-3.

In 1974, the Philippines planned to use satellites to improve communications. The leasing of satellites from Intelsat was considered but it was later decided to lease capacity from the Indonesian Palapa system. There were interests for a national communication satellite but initiatives to obtain one did not start until 1994, when the Philippine Agila Satellite Inc. (PASI), a consortium of 17 companies, was established to operate and purchase domestic satellites.[27][28]

The Mabuhay Philippines Satellite Corporation (MPSC), another consortium, was formed in the same year by PLDT, which was a former member of PASI. PLDT was the largest member of PASI before its departure from the consortium. MPSC was composed of numerous domestic telecommunications and broadcasting companies, along with Indonesia-based Pasifik Satelit Nusantara and China-based Everbright Group.[28] [29]

Then, President Fidel V. Ramos expressed his desire for a Philippine satellite to be in orbit in time for the APEC Summit to be held in the country in November 1996.[28]

MPSC complied with the acquisition of Indonesian satellite Palapa B-2P from Pasifik Satelit Nusantara. The satellite was moved to a new orbital slot on August 1, 1996. The satellite was renamed Agila-1 and became the first satellite in orbit to be owned by the country.[30][31][32]

MPSC launched the country's second satellite, Agila-2, with assistance of China. The communications satellite was launched through the Long March 3B at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center on August 19, 1997. The satellite was acquired by Asia Broadcast Satellite in 2011[33] and was renamed to ABS-3.

A cube satellite

Government initiatives in the 2010s[edit]

In the 2010s, the Philippine government got involved in space ventures. The DOST launched the $80 million Philippine-LiDAR program in 2012 where it sent 10 engineers to the United Kingdom to train with the Met Office regarding light detection and ranging (LiDAR) technology which devises space data. The training program resulted 920 LiDAR expert processors in the country by July 2018 and the Philippines later trained other scientists from other parts of Southeast Asia.[4]

The DOST initiated the Philippine Scientific Earth Observation Microsatellite (PHL-Microsat) program to send two microsatellites in 2016 and 2017. The effort is part of the country's disaster risk management program. A receiving station will also be built in the country.[34][35] The efforts were part of a bigger project, together with seven other Asian countries aside from Japan and the Philippines, to create a network of about 50 microsatellites.[36]

The first satellite under this program Diwata-1, the first satellite designed and assembled by Filipinos, with cooperation from the Hokkaido University and Tohoku University.[37] One of the major goals of the PHL-Microsat program is to boost the progress on the creation of the Philippine Space Agency.[38] The satellite was deployed from the International Space Station on April 27, 2016. The first nanosatellite, Maya-1 was also deployed from the ISS along with two other satellites on August 10, 2018.

President Rodrigo Duterte in February 2018 announced that a precursor to a space agency, the National Space Development Office, will be established. As of March 2018, there are seven pending bills in both the House of Representatives and the Senate seeking to establish the Philippine Space Agency (PhilSA).[3] In the meantime, the DOST has agreed with the Russian space agency Roscosmos, "to proceed with negotiations of an intergovernmental framework agreement on space cooperation that will include use of Russian rockets to launch Philippine payloads such as micro- and nano-satellites as well as the establishment of a receiving station for the Global Navigation Satellite System" (GLONASS), Russia's alternative to American Global Positioning System (GPS)[39]

On October 29, 2018, the second satellite under the PHL-Microsat program, the Diwata-2, was launched directly into orbit from the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan.[40][41][42]

In late-January 2019, the Department of Science and Technology has said that the Philippines is already capable to found its own space agency with a pending bill already passed in the House of Representatives and a pending counterpart legislation already pending in the Senate. By this time since 2010, the science department has already spent ₱7.48 billion (or $144 million) for space research and development, aided 5,500 scholars, trained more than 1,000 space science experts, and established 25 facilities in various parts of the Philippines.[22]

Space education[edit]

The Department of Science and Technology–Science Education Institute (DOST-SEI) launched the first Philippine Space Science Education Program (PESSAP) in 2004, to promote science and technology, particularly space science, as a field of study to the Filipino youth.[43]

On October 5, 2017, high school students from St. Cecilia's College-Cebu, Inc. launched 3-feet solid propellant Model rockets for the World Space Week 2017 celebration in Cebu City.[44]

A model rocket being launched outdoors
A model rocket launch from Minglanilla, Cebu, Philippines

Student-researchers and science faculty from St. Cecilia's College - Cebu, Inc. in partnership with Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development (DOST-PCIEERD) successfully launched the first High-Altitude Balloon Life Support System "Karunungan" (HAB LSS Karunungan) in May 2018 at Minglanilla, Cebu, Philippines and floated above the Armstrong Line to simulate 'space like' conditions for future space flights.[45][46]

See also[edit]


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