National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. underscored Wednesday, May 19, the importance of utilizing advancements in science and technology (S&T) such as the satellite technology to preserve the country’s maritime domain.
This, as Esperon and Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Secretary Fortunato dela Pena signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) for the implementation of the Synthetic Aperture Radar and Automatic Identification System for Innovative Terrestrial Monitoring and Maritime Surveillance (SAR with AIS) project.
First incepted in June 2018, the SAR with AIS project equipped researchers with access to data tasking and sharing capabilities of the NovaSAR-1 satellite to enhance the terrestrial and maritime monitoring around the country.
The NovaSAR-1 is a small S-Band synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellite which was launched into a 580-kilomtere sun-synchornous orbit in September 2018. The earth-observation SAR satellite has multiple features conducive to the country’s atmospheric and climactic conditions.
Its SAR capabilites enable it to acquire earth observation data through cloud cover and detect marine structures such as marine vessels and aquaculture systems.
Meanwhile, the AIR receiver payload allows the satellite to collect ship information across the country’s 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
According to Esperon, the partnership between the National Secuirty Council and the Department of Science and Technology will help the government to conduct an all-day imaging and ship detection in the West Philippine Sea, Kalayaan municipality in Palawan, and the Philippine Rise.
“With this project, we have accelerated our interest in outer space especially when applied right to our maritime domain. We can now capture data that would go beyond scientific research and can be used for many purposes including national security,” said Esperon, who is also the chairman of the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS).
This could be crucial as the task force recently monitored the return of at least 287 Chinese maritime militia vessels in the WPS.
“We have been monitoring the presence of Chinese vessels within our maritime domain since 2016 but this is primarily done [through] our maritime patrols and sovereignty patrols,” Esperon said, adding that it was “difficult” for them to guard the entire 200-kilometer EEZ with the limited intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaisance (ISR) equipment they have.
“With the arrival of this project, NovaSAR, and of course with the contribution of other allies, we have improved our awareness of our maritime domain.
I hope with the improvements in the granularity and in training of our personnel both in DOST and involved agencies, we will be able to optimize the products or outputs from NovaSAR itself,” he added.
Aside from data monitoring, Esperon noted that the satellite technology will also help the government in monitoring the resources that are in the WPS, Kalayaan, and Philippine Rise.
“We want the NovaSAR to not only focus on the ships but other things as well, other resources that are connected to the environment,” he said.
“Perhaps we could expand on that because WPS and Philippine Rise is just about six to seven times the area of our land area and if you would expand agriculture into that area, you can just imagine the possibilities and potentials especially in our fisheries which we always want to call blue economy,” he said.
“That makes again back to our motto ‘Bringing science to benefit our people.’ If science has to serve us, it should serve even the lowliest even the fisherfolk and the farmers,” he concluded.