A measure seeking to establish the Philippine Space Agency (PhilSA) which was introduced by Second District Representative Erico Aumentado at the House of Representatives is a step closer to enactment after the Senate approved on third and final reading the bill’s counterpart at the upper house.
Senate Bill 1983, or the Act Establishing the Philippine Space Development and Utilization Policy and Creating the Philippine Space Agency, which was sponsored by Sen. Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV was passed by the upper chamber on May 20, five months after the Senate received the lower House bill in December last year.
With the Senate and House set to adjourn on June 17, both chambers of Congress have barely two weeks to merge and ratify their respective space bills. The unified proposal would then be submitted to the President who will decide to whether veto or sign the measure into law.
Aumentado’s House Bill 3637, which was later merged with other similar measures into HB 08541, highlighted the need for space technology for the improvement of satellites, communications, environmental monitoring, navigation, disaster assessment, defense and security.
“Thus, space infrastructure and capabilities are an indispensible asset of society and an essential requirement for any modern country,” the bill stated.
For his part, Aquino said the launch of a space program in the Philippines would give Filipinos a new perspective and valuable insights that could help solve some of the country’s biggest problem.
“Satellites can improve disaster management, from providing accurate information that allow early warnings and predicting of disasters to reliable and quick communication during relief and recovery operations,” Aquino said.
He said space technology could also enhance production and profitability of agribusinesses due to soil and weather monitoring and assessment.
It could help conserve and preserve the environment, improve urban planning, transportation and communication networks.
Aquino expressed hope that the proposed legislation would propel the Philippines to be space-capable in the next decade.
If enacted into law, the Philippine Space Development and Utilization Policy, as stated in the bill, would serve as the Philippines’ strategic roadmap for space development.
Under the bill, initial funding for the space program in the amount of PHP1 billion will be taken from the current fiscal year’s appropriation of the Office of the President.
The amount for the subsequent operation and maintenance of the PhilSA will be included in the General Appropriations Act.
Additional funding amounting to PHP10 billion will come from the gross income of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR) and the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) for five years after the effectivity of the act, with PHP2 billion to be released to PhilSA yearly.
PhilSA may also derive income on its specialized products, services and royalties, as well as accept funding from loans, contributions, grants, bequests, gifts, donations provided that such grants, bequests, contribution and donations from foreign governments will be approved by the President upon the recommendation of the PhilSA director general.
According to the bill, the PhilSA office and its research facilities will be housed in at least 30 hectares of land under the administration of the BCDA within the Clark Special Economic Zone in Pampanga and Tarlac.
Additional areas for research and launch sites will also be developed in the future. (June Blanco and PNA)