The Philippine Space Act (RA 11363), signed by President Rodrigo Duterte on Aug. 8, will help push the country’s forward thrust and further boost its Global Innovation Index (GII) rating, now in 54th place among 129 countries.
Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda, principal author of the measure in Congress, said RA 11363 paves the way for the Philippines’ entry into the international space community and is among the administration’s priorities to help safeguard the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. It also establishes the Philippine Space Development and Utilization Policy, the country’s strategic roadmap for space development, to become a space-capable and space-faring nation in the next decade. It also creates the Philippine Space Agency.
Salceda said RA 11363 is committed to the development of science and technology that will foster patriotism by continuous growth in climate studies and hazard management, ensure national security, accelerate social progress and enable Philippines representation in the international space community.
The measure, he stressed, will surely boost further the country’s GII rating, which has jumped 19 rungs to 54th place this year from 73rd in 2018. “Among 32 low middle (LM) income economies, we are ranked 9th with Vietnam leading at No. 1. The Philippines should use Vietnam as benchmark and aim for the top five among LM nations,” he added. The GII result was recently published jointly by Cornell University graduate business school INSEAD and the World Property Organization.
Congress passed the PhilSA bill in December 2018. The Senate passed its version in May this year. While pending at the Office of the President. Salceda lobbied hard with various executive departments to endorse the bill.
Duterte last year also signed RA 11035 or the Balik Scientist Act, which Salceda also crafted in the House to address the lack of scientists in the country working for research and development, and catch up with Asian neighbors. The Philippines has only about 189 scientists per million population, way below the ideal 380 per million ratio.
DOST reported there is now an increasing number of returning scientists, with 14 in the first two months, and is projected to reach 70 to 80, well beyond the 60 target for 2019. With PhilSA and the Balik-Scientist Program, he said, Philippine innovation will certainly climb higher in the years ahead. Salceda has also authored several other science and technology innovation bills including the Science for Change Act or S4CP. He likewise co-authored the National Innovation Act and has consistently defended the DOST budget in the House plenary.
He noted that space technology has now become ubiquitous, so that many vital activities would not operate without space systems, like satellites, to provide capabilities in communications, navigation, defense and security, environmental monitoring and disaster assessment.
“This makes space infrastructure and capabilities as indispensable assets and essential requirements for any modern country,” he stressed, adding that as a developing economic powerhouse in the Asia-Pacific, it is crucial for the country to embark on efficient space science and technology applications and utilization to address various development and security issues and keep up with other countries.
PhilSA will be the main government agency to take charge of activities and issues related to space science and technology, and their applications. It will be involved in crafting and implementing the country’s space policy, space-related research and development programs, and represent the country in global space forums, accords and organizations. It will operate under the Office of the President and will be headed by a Director-General.
The agency will have an initial P1 billion budget from the current fiscal year’s appropriation for the Office of the President. Funding for its subsequent operation and maintenance will be included in the General Appropriations Act. About P10 billion for its capital outlay will come from the gross income of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation and the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) for five years after the effectivity of the law, with P2 billion to be released annually.
RA 11363 also establishes the Philippine Space Council, the principal advisory body for the coordination and integration of policies, programs and resources affecting space science and technology applications. It will be chaired by the President. PhilSA’s office and research facilities will be built in a 30-hectare land at the Clark Special Economic Zone in Pampanga and Tarlac, with additional areas for research and launch sites in the future.