By EDD K. USMAN
Twitter: @edd1819, Instagram: @bluestar0910, Facebook: SDN — Science, Digital & Current Affairs
(SDN) — THE European Union (EU) is exploring the possibility of a “close cooperation” with the Philippine government for its Copernicus Program.
If realized, it will be implemented through the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).
Philippe Brunet, principal advisor, Directorate General for International Cooperation and Development of EU, revealed this recently in an event in Makati City, Metro Manila.
He sounded off the good news.
“We are looking at the possibility to implement a national capacity support program on Copernicus towards the end of the current year as a first step in close cooperation with the Department of Science and Technology (DOST),” Brunet, reading his keynote speech, said at the National Conference on Copernicus — a Partner for Earth Observation and Sustainable Development on February 6.
Science Secretary Fortunato T. de la Peña, DOST head, led a contingent from the Philippine government representing the scientific community, particularly the public sector.
One of those with him was Science Undersecretary Dr. Renato U. Solidum, Jr., officer-in-charge of the Philippine Volcano and Seismology Institute (DOST-PHIVOLCS).
De la Peña gave a glimpse of what the partnership is all about.
“They will help in terms of a partnership program: access to their Earth Observation data, cooperation in modelling that will use these data, and training.bAs stated, these are initial steps,” de la Peña said.
The initial focus, the DOST chief said, will be on applications in disaster risk reduction and management, environment monitoring, and climate change.
It has already been used already, through the Sentinel data of Copernicus as acknowledged by the PHIVOLCS head.
“The Sentinel satellite data was one of the satellite data used to interpret the overall surface deformation of Taal Volcano and combined with the ground-based surface deformation data of DOST-PHIVOLCS to confirm, with other instrumental monitoring data and field survey results the magmatic processes related to Taal Volcano’s activity,” Solidum said.
Copernicus is the EU flagship Earth Observation Program that starter operating in 2014.
Brunet pointed out that since its establishment, “Copernicus has become an excellent example of European cooperation, and the world’s leading provider of Earth observation data and information which support evidence-based policy, create economic opportunities, encourage innovation, and contribute to better disaster risk management and emergency response and tackle challenges of global nature.”
One example close at home concerns the activities of Taal Volcano when it erupted on January 12, 2020.
The European Commission’s (EC) Emergency Response Coordination Center (ERCC) of the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) used the mapping system of Copernicus a day after the eruption, providing accurate rapid and spatially explicit information on the hazards, exposure and vulnerability surrounding Taal Volcano’s phreatic activities.
Copernicus’s useful technology goes a long way back in its applications for the Philippines. It was also used during the “Habagat” flooding in 2012 as well as during other typhoons that hit the country, among them Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in 2013, Lando (Koppu in 2015), and Ompong (Mangkhut in 2018).
“In view of the above context, the European Union Delegation to the Philippines has been working very closely with the (DOST) since early 2019 to develop a national capacity support program on Copernicus for the Philippines,” the delegation said in a statement.
Brunet, the former director for Space Policy at Copernicus Program and Defense, cited other countries’ inability to establish their own comprehensive space infrastructure.
“Hence the widespread and free availability of European space data open to all nations is of fundamental importance.
“Through Copernicus, the EU provides full access not only to data which can be obtained as raw material for further processing, but also to added value services, i.e. already processed data targeting specific uses.
The Copernicus Program’s services cover the Atmosphere, Marine, Land, Security, Climate Change, and Emergency.
Brunet revealed the EU has poured around £9.6 billion (that’s an estimated whopping 631 billion Philippine pesos) in the Copernicus Program.
But the EU is not about to stop from there. Additional £5.8 billion was already proposed to invest more on the Copernicus, especially for its economic return in investments (ROI).
“The program is already generating economic benefits exceeding the investment which excludes the non-monetary benefits, such as environmental, societal and strategic benefits,” said Brunet.
He said Copernicus can also help track and monitor indicators on the progress of some of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) the United Nations set in 2015.
One example he mentioned is SDG 2, Zero Hunger.
“Data provided by the global component of the Land Monitoring Service, for example, help national institutions (including the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines in monitoring crop conditions, providing early warnings on failing crops and predicting crop yields,” said Brunet.
The Sentinel is an Earth Observation mission of the Copernicus Program, with its satellites orbiting in space and providing high-resolution optical imagery for various applications. (SDN)