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Philippines: Women’s meaningful participation in peace: Lessons from the Bangsamoro (Mindanao, Philippines)

30 January 2017 - 4:41pm
Source: Conciliation Resources Country: Philippines

Introduction

The importance of women’s meaningful participation and the consequent need to address the absence of women in peace processes has been widely acknowledged, notably after the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1325 (UNSCR1325) in 2000 on women’s protection and empowerment. Women’s participation is not only an issue of justice but also a fundamental condition towards ensuring a sustainable and transformative peace process.

However, implementation of this resolution has been slow and much is still to be learned about how to move forward in practical terms. Each peace process therefore offers the opportunity to innovate and thereby contribute to the global knowledge on how to improve the quality of a peace process.

This paper reflects on the achievements and the challenges of four civil society organisations in the Philippines who worked together on the Mindanao peace process between 2013 and 2016, with support from Conciliation Resources and the British Embassy in Manila.

The purpose of the paper is to share reflections and learning from this experience to inform decisions on planning and the funding of other initiatives that contribute to women’s meaningful participation in peace.

Philippines: Philippines - Severe weather (PAGASA, Local Media) (ECHO Daily Flash of 30 January 2017)

30 January 2017 - 11:52am
Source: European Commission's Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations Country: Philippines
  • Heavy rain has been affecting the country over the past days, especially the Northern Mindanao and Caraga regions, causing floods.

  • According to local media, as of 30 January at 7.00 UTC, at least 77 643 people have been affected, of which 52 147 in Northern Mindanao and 25 496 in Caraga, and at least 500 houses have been damaged in Caraga.

  • Over the next 24 hours, moderate to locally heavy rain may still affect the country, including the areas already affected.

Philippines: Asia and the Pacific: Weekly Regional Humanitarian Snapshot (24 - 30 January 2017)

30 January 2017 - 3:43am
Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Country: Bangladesh, Indonesia, Myanmar, Philippines

BANGLADESH

As of 25 January and following a new round of verification, aid agencies in Cox's Bazar estimate that 13,000 families (69,000 people) from Myanmar have arrived since October 2016. New arrivals are residing in registered camps, makeshift settlements and in host communities. The rate of people crossing the border is understood to have decreased, and from 20 to 26 January partners reported only one new family arrived in Leda Makeshift Settlement (LMS). However, services are under strain; NGO partners have reported that the water supply in LMS is running out and sufficient for two more months. Family tracing services for unaccompanied children also need to be expanded.

69,000 new arrivals

PHILIPPINES

As of 30 January, about 100,000 people are displaced by flooding in Caraga region (northeastern Mindanao) due to successive weather systems affecting the area. Over 80,000 displaced people are in Agusan del Sur province. Local governments and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) have distributed food packs, dignity kits and emergency shelter.

100,000 people displaced

On 26 January, 5,700 people in Ampatuan municipality (Maguindanao province) were displaced by a joint law enforcement operation conducted by the military and police against non-state armed actors.
The affected people were evacuated to the town centre. The regional disaster management authority provided food and relief items.

MYANMAR

In Maungdaw north (Rakhine State), more than 23,000 people are estimated to be internally displaced – this area is the most affected by the 9 October attacks and subsequent security operations. Since 13 January, emergency food distributions have reached almost 35,000 people in Maungdaw north. While distribution of food and other relief items by national staff is now permitted, protection activities remain suspended. Health services have resumed in some areas, but coverage of services is uneven and turn-out has been low, including for vaccination services. Most international staff remain confined to the township centres of Maungdaw and Buthidaung.

23,000 internally displaced people

As a result of intensified conflict between the Myanmar Military and ethnic armed groups over recent months, close to 11,000 people are newly-displaced across Kachin (7,000 people) and Shan (4,000 people) states. Three camps in areas beyond Government control in Kachin have been left empty as a result of fighting. A growing number of people have been displaced multiple times in recent months. The displacement across both states is being driven by escalation in hostilities close to camps and in civilian areas since November 2016.

INDONESIA

Between 25 and 28 January, flooding in North and Central Sulawesi, Bangka Belitung, South Kalimantan, West Nusa Tenggara, East Java and Yogyakarta provinces directly affected at least 16,700 people. The flash floods caused two deaths in East Java and one death in Central Sulawesi.
Emergency responses were carried out by local provincial disaster management offices. The national weather bureau forecasts no extreme weather for the upcoming week.

Philippines: Flood Update: Pagasa raises "Code Red" over Northern Mindanao

28 January 2017 - 6:09pm
Source: Government of the Philippines Country: Philippines

Weather officials raised the “Code Red” in Northern Mindanao, including the province of Misamis Oriental and the city of Cagayan De Oro Saturday afternoon as heavy rains continuous to batter the region.

Luz Mercado of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Service Administration (PAG-ASA) based in Misamis Oriental, said that “Code Red” means that force evacuation could be employed among residents along the river channels due to rising flood water.

Supt. Surki Serenas, spokesperson of the police regional command, said that about 1,000 police personnel from the police regional headquarters here were deployed Saturday afternoon to augment the disaster officials.

He said that the police contingent and four six by six trucks were deployed in Misamis Oriental and the city to assist in the evacuation of flood victims and stranded residents.

In Misamis Oriental, more than 600 families in the town of Medina and the component city of Gingoog had been evacuated to safer grounds, provincial Governor Yevgeny Vincente Emano said.

He said that the provincial social welfare and development had also prepared food packs and relief goods for the flood-stricken residents in Misamis Oriental.

In Cagayan De Oro City, the military has also deployed army personnel to assist the city’s disaster officials in the evacuation of residents and in the distribution of relief goods to flood victims.

So far, the disaster officials in Misamis Oriental and Cagayan De Oro City reported no casualties here. (PNA)

RMA/CD

Philippines: Flood warning raised in N. Mindanao cities, provinces

28 January 2017 - 6:07pm
Source: Government of the Philippines Country: Philippines

MISAMIS ORIENTAL, Jan. 28 (PNA) -- Local officials have raised flood warnings in various areas in northern and northeastern Mindanao amid the heavy rains that continued to drench the region Saturday morning.

Local weather officials have raised the “orange alert” in the provinces of Misamis Oriental, Bukidnon, Camiguin, Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Surigao del Sur, Surigao del Norte, and Dinagat Islands due to heavy rains spawned by a low-pressure area (LPA) Saturday morning.

The “yellow alert” was also raised in the provinces of Misamis Occidental and Lanao del Norte.

An “orange alert” advises residents along river channels to move to safer grounds in anticipation of a rise in floodwaters while a “yellow alert” advises residents to be on alert for possible flooding.

The weather officials also warned of floods in low-lying areas and those near river channels, and landslides in mountainous areas in the region.

Misamis Oriental Governor Yevgeny Vincente Emano has issued a province-wide alert and ordered the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO) to mobilize the rescue teams to respond to any eventuality.

He said residents of Medina, a coastal town east of Misamis Oriental, had been evacuated to safer grounds due to flooding.

Emano further said that two houses in Villanueva, also a coastal town east of Misamis Oriental, were destroyed when a tree fell on them, but nobody was reported hurt.

The governor also advised all public school officials to exercise prudence in dismissing classes, putting into consideration the safety of students.

In Cagayan de Oro City, traffic officials have ordered the closure of some portions of the Claro M. Recto Ave., where hundreds of vehicles were stuck during the flooding last January 16.

Other major streets in the city were also closed, particularly Osmeña St., the Lapasan highway, Serena St. in Carmen, and the JR Borja Ext. in Camaman-an village.

Last Jan. 16, more than 5,000 residents in Misamis Oriental and another 5,000 residents in Cagayan de Oro City were evacuated due to flood spawned by an LPA.

Misamis Oriental and Cagayan de Oro City are still reeling from the Jan. 16 flood and has remained under a state of calamity. (PNA)

Philippines: Maguindanao health chief ensures IDPs safe from diseases in evacuation site

28 January 2017 - 6:04pm
Source: Government of the Philippines Country: Philippines

AMPATUAN, Maguindanao, Jan. 27 (PNA) -- Medical workers in Maguindanao on Friday reached out to and served families displaced by armed hostilities in Maguindanao, including those who fled homes during the government anti-drug operations in a hinterland village.

Dr. Tahir Sulaik, Maguindanao health chief, said a medical team and health providers visited the Ampatuan municipal gymnasium where the IDPs, mostly Teduray tribes people, distributed medicine to prevent the spread of communicable diseases among the evacuees.

Sulaik said the medical team served more than 200 families now temporarily seeking shelter at the town's gymnasium in Poblacion Ampatuan.

The Humanitarian Emergency Action Response Team of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) also distributed food packs, safe drinking water and containers as well as put up a communal cooking station so food are safe, according to Myrna Jo Henry, HEART-ARMM spokesperson.

The civilians fled their homes on Thursday dawn when police and military went to Barangay Saniag at about 3 a.m. to serve search warrants against Ampatuan Mayor Sangki, one of Maguindanao local executives named publicly by President Rodrigo Duterte as narco-politicians in August last year.

Sangki denied he was into drugs and offered himself to be investigated. He, however, was not in Barangay Saniag during the serving of warrants.

Government troops clashed with his armed followers and members of the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

Four BIFF members were killed and three others were hurt. Seven infantrymen were hurt on the government side.

Manhunt versus Sangki and his men continues in Ampatuan town. The mayor has not issued any statement on the warrants against him. (PNA) LAP/NYP/EOF

Philippines: DA-BFAR brings fishery typhoon rehab mats to Ilocos Norte

28 January 2017 - 2:05am
Source: Government of the Philippines Country: Philippines

QUEZON CITY, Jan. 28 - The Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DA-BFAR) joined hands with the provincial government of Ilocos Norte in rehabilitating the livelihood of over 600 municipal fisherfolk affected by recent calamities.

Held at the Centennial Arena of Laoag City on Wednesday, January 25, the awarding of over 10.8 million pesos worth of fishery projects and equipment was a joint effort to mend the typhoon damage to the livelihood of affected fisherfolk.

“We hope that these equipment and other fishery materials will grant you the opportunity to recover and improve your livelihood,” DA Undersecretary for Fisheries and BFAR National Director Eduardo Gongona told the Ilocano fisherfolk during his speech.

Turned over were 44,500 tilapia fingerlings, 424 units of fishing gears, 29 fiberglass boats, 12 chest freezers, 10 fish claddings, 4 fish stalls, 3 fish aggregating devices, and 2 smoke houses to fisherfolk beneficiaries and local government units from various municipalities in Ilocos Norte. Two Community Fish Landing Centers (CFLCs) were awarded to Bacarra and Pagudpud, while one Bottom-Up Budgeting (BUB) program worth 1.2 million pesos was conferred to Bacarra.

Also conducted was a brief dialogue between the Ilocano fisherfolk and Undersecretary Gongona. Together with Ilocos Norte Vice Governor Angelo Marcos Barba, Laoag Mayor Chevylle Fariñas, and other municipal and provincial officials, the bureau director answered requests and committed more fiberglass boats and post-harvest facilities to the province.

“Just send us the formal, necessary requests and we will immediately act on them,” the director told the fisherfolk and local officials.

As part of its fisherfolk poverty alleviation program, the DA-BFAR has been continuously sending fisheries rehab materials to the Ilocos since the region was struck by Typhoon Lawin last October. With nearly 74,000 registered fisherfolk and having contributed 4,100 metric tons of fish last year, the region remains as one of the Department of Agriculture’s prime movers of agri-fisheries development in Luzon. (BFAR)

Philippines: NDRRMC SitRep No.11 re Effects of Tail-End of a Cold Front and Low Pressure Area (LPA)

27 January 2017 - 4:25pm
Source: Government of the Philippines Country: Philippines

(extract)

11. EFFECTS:

A. Preemptive Evacuation (TAB A)

1, A total of 17,366 families / 90,697 persons were pre-emptively evacuated in Regions VI, VII, IX, X, XI, CARAGA, and NIR.

B. Affected Population (TAB B)

  1. A total of 140 938 families 679,412 persons were affected in a total of 839 barangays in Regions VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, XI, XII, CARAGA, and ARMM due to the said weather disturbances.
  2. Of which, 8,375 families/39,142 persons are served inside 141 Evacuation Centers (ECs) and 8,310 families 142,422 persons are still served outside ECs.

C. Casualties (TAB C)

  1. Nine (9) dead, ten (10) injured and two(2) missing persons were reported in Regions VIII, IX, X, and CARAGA.

D. Flooded Areas (TAB D )

  1. A total of 450 areas were reported flooded in Regions VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, XII, CARAGA, ARMM, and NIR. Of which, flood waters in 216 areas has already subsided.

Philippines: Thousands of families in waterless communities nationwide now have access to potable water - DILG

27 January 2017 - 1:40am
Source: Government of the Philippines Country: Philippines

Around 300,000 households nationwide who belong to the waterless communities are now benefiting from the completed 554 potable water supply projects under the Sagana at Ligtas na Tubig sa Lahat (SALINTUBIG) program since it started in 2012, according to the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).

DILG Secretary Ismael D. Sueno said that SALINTUBIG program provides levels I, II and III potable water supply systems to municipalities and barangays which are waterless and/or with low water service coverage, with high incidence of poverty and water-borne diseases.

“Water is life and for the people living in far-flung and waterless communities, these SALINTUBIG projects will greatly ease their burden from long walks, sometimes across rivers and mountains, just to have access to drinking water,” Sec. Sueno said.

He said that the Department through the Office of Project Development Services – Water Supply and Sanitation Project Management Unit (OPDS-WSS PMO) is also monitoring the progress of the remaining 1,171 projects that are in various stages of implementation.

Of these, 280 are on-going projects, 184 are in procurement stage, 596 are on preparation of Detailed Engineering Design (DED), and 111 are on the preparation of the Feasibility Studies (FS).

Sec. Sueno added that completion of SALINTUBIG projects do not just happen overnight but the entire process from preparation of initial documents up to project turn-over takes about 18 to 20 months to complete because of the nature of work to be done.

“It takes about 4-6 months to complete the FS and DED then another 1 - 1.5 months for the procurement process,” Sueno said. “The project implementation takes another 13-14.5 months to finish.”

Hundreds of SALINTUBIG projects implemented yearly

Sec. Sueno added that DILG has been relentless in the pursuit of implementing hundreds of SALINTUBIG projects every year for the past 5 years.

He explained that the Department allotted P770,000 in 2012 for the implementation of 262 SALINTUBIG projects. Of these, 259 have been completed, two are on-going implementation, and one is on procurement stage.

Another P640,000 in 2013 was allotted for the implementation of 181 SALINTUBIG projects. For this, a total of 146 projects are already completed, 30 are on-going implementation, one on procurement stage, and four on DED preparation.

In 2014, the DILG allotted P515,000 for the implementation of 116 projects and 73 of these have been completed. There are 34 on-going projects, eight on procurement and the last one project is on DED preparation.

In 2015, P1.512 million worth of 665 SALINTUBIG projects was implemented across the country and 76 of them are already complete. There are 196 on-going projects, 114 on procurement, 244 on DED preparation and the remaining 35 projects are on FS preparation.

For the latest batch in 2016, P1.512M worth of 501 SALINTUBIG projects were implemented by the Department. A total of 18 projects are already complete, 60 are on implementation stage, 347 are on DED preparation, and 76 are on FS preparation.

“This 2017, the DILG will continue this initiative and hopefully, we shall be able to cover as many waterless communities as our budget will allow,” Sueno said. “This way, our fellow Filipinos in the countrysidewill also be able to benefit from the potable water supply that many of those in the large cities are enjoying.”

Philippines: Achieving sustainable faecal sludge management in typhoon-affected areas of the Philippines

26 January 2017 - 6:50am
Source: Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development Country: Philippines

Sanitation infrastructure in the Philippines was significantly damaged by typhoon Yolanda, which struck the Philippines in 2013. To prevent the increased risk of waterborne diseases, ACTED implemented a system of septic tanks and latrines, that started to cause problems of fecal sludge discharge after several years. ACTED thus proposes an eco-friendly, innovative solution to faecal sludge management.

Assessing faecal sludge management in Eastern Samar

In December 2016, ACTED conducted an assessment in three municipalities of Eastern Samar in order to evaluate household hygiene practices, particularly in terms of faecal sludge management, as well as the solutions planned by communities and authorities regarding the challenge of emptying septic tanks that had been designed specifically for latrines built a year before in communities covered by ACTED’s sanitation project in typhoon Yolanda-affected communities.

What solutions when septic tanks are full? Tackling an urgent issue

The assessment revealed the lack of sustainable faecal sludge management which will endanger the health and development of the communities. A year after their construction, the latrines proved in good state, but the septic tanks will soon be full. Local authorities, although aware of the issue, can’t address it. In the hard-to-reach province of Eastern Samar, alternative options are scarce: only one private provider proposes its services to empty the septic tank for a price representing 5 to10 times what the majority of household is willing to pay. The rest of the respondents can’t afford such a service, being already financially strained. Consequently, once their septic tanks are full, families who reside in “Zero Open Defecation” villages (barangays) and who have been mobilized on hygiene practices consider using neighborhood latrines. But those scarce latrines will not be able to accommodate all the population: this will leave the community with no choice but to return to the bush, thus leading to risks of contamination of the water, crops, food, etc. and endangering the health of the population.

Innovative community-based faecal sludge management systems to tackle the sanitation issues

Based on the findings of this assessment and advanced consultations with local, provincial, and regional authorities, ACTED has developed a framework of intervention to address the threatening issue of faecal sludge management. ACTED intends to propose a program aiming to improve community sanitation by supporting faecal sludge treatment in a participatory approach actively involving local authorities, communities and local social entrepreneurs.

Sustainable faecal sludge management capacities will be achieved through four steps:

  1. Cross cutting capacity building for local synergies:

ACTED intends to develop local public and private capacities, in particular by working with a social entrepreneurial business who will be empowered and will take over the system to sustainably, effectively and safely serve community and emergency camp sanitation needs.

  1. The creation of an affordable solution for septic tank emptying:

ACTED intends to support the organization and development of an affordable low-cost sludge collection and treatment system.

  1. An environmentally responsible and innovative process to turn faecal sludge into fertilizers:

The treatment of collected feacal sludge will allow a unique and innovative process that will enable the faecal sludge to be processed into eco-friendly fertilizer to be reused and sold to support agricultural livelihoods in Eastern Samar.

Philippines: Philippines Country Profile (04-01-17)

26 January 2017 - 4:40am
Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Country: Philippines

Key Figures

101 million population (2015 ) 49.6% Female 50.4% Male

21.6% poverty headcount ratio at national poverty lines (% of population 2015)

US$2,899 Lower middle income GDP per capita (2015)

Overview

The Philippines is one of the most disaster prone countries in the world. On average, 22 tropical cyclones enter the Philippines each year, with at least six having significant humanitarian impact. From 2005 to 2015, 97 storms affected 83 million people and caused nearly 16,000 deaths. Typhoon Haiyan, which hit in 2013, was one of the most destructive cyclones ever recorded.

In Mindanao, a protracted conflict situation between Government and various armed groups is ongoing. In 2016, 251,000 people were internally displaced due to conflict and violence.

Philippines: Dengue Situation Update 508, 17 January 2017

25 January 2017 - 11:41pm
Source: World Health Organization Country: Australia, Cambodia, China, French Polynesia (France), Lao People's Democratic Republic (the), Malaysia, New Caledonia (France), Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Singapore, Viet Nam

Update on the Dengue situation in the Western Pacific Region

Northern Hemisphere

China

As of 31 December 2016, there were 2076 cases of dengue reported in China in 2016. This number is lower than that reported during the same period in 2015 (Figure 1).

Malaysia

A total of 1903 cases of dengue were reported during week 2, which is higher than the 1663 cases reported in the previous week (an increase of 14.4 %) (Figure 2). The cumulative number of cases reported in 2017 (3566 cases) is lower than the number of cases reported during the same period in 2016 (6837 cases) . As of week 2, there have been a total of 5 deaths related to dengue in 2017.

Philippines (No update)

As of 5 November 2016, there were 176,411 suspected cases of dengue reported in 2016, including 422 deaths. This is 0.8% lower than that reported during the same period in 2015 (n=177,767) (Figure 3).

Singapore

In week 1, there were 70 dengue cases reported in Singapore. The cumulative number of cases in 2017 (n=70) is 12.8% lower than that reported during the same period of 2016 (n=546) (Figure 4).

Lao PDR

As of 30 December, there were 5617 cases of dengue with 10 deaths reported in Lao PDR in 2016. During week 53, 33 new dengue cases and no deaths were reported. The number of cases is higher than the same time period in 2014 and 2015, but has been decreasing since week 47 (Figure 5).

Viet Nam

As of 30 November 2016, there were 110,854 cases of dengue including 42 deaths reported in Viet Nam. In November 2016, there were 15,629 cases reported including 7 deaths. Compared to October 2016, the number of cases decreased by 2.4%. Compared to the same period in 2015, the cumulative number of cases increased by 37.8%. Compared to the median for 2011-2015, the cumulative number of cases increased by 79.9% (Figure 6).

Southern Hemisphere

Australia

As of 16 January, there were 22 laboratory-confirmed dengue cases reported in Australia in 2017. The number of cases reported is less than that reported during the same time period in the previous years (2012-2015) (Figure 7).

Pacific Islands Countries and Areas

French Polynesia

A total of 21 confirmed dengue cases were reported in French Polynesia between December 19, 2016 and January 1, 2017 (11 cases in week 51 and 10 cases in week 52) (Figure 8). Four (18%) of the 21 cases were confirmed as DENV-1 infection.

New Caledonia

As of 13 January 2017, 87 dengue cases were reported, indicating an increase in the number of cases since June 2016 (Figure 9).

Philippines: ChildFund Alliance Responds to Typhoon Nock-Ten in the Philippines

25 January 2017 - 3:07pm
Source: ChildFund Alliance Country: Philippines

New York, NY, Jan. 10, 2017— Super Typhoon Nock-Ten (local name: Typhoon Nina) made landfall in the Philippines between Dec. 24 and 26, 2016, with winds up to 180 miles per hour. The typhoon left destruction in its wake, including many damaged roads, schools, houses and crops. According to the Philippine National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, nearly 500,000 people were evacuated ahead of the storm, and almost 2 million were affected.

ChildFund Alliance is responding to the crisis in five municipalities. Assistance includes distribution of emergency relief supplies, including food and potable water; shelter repair; and food-for-work initiatives, in which community members help clean up their communities and repair their houses and receive food in return. ChildFund plans to continue with longer-term livelihood and shelter programs.

“We know that children are vulnerable in the aftermath of natural disasters. Infants and young children forced to sleep in the open are exposed to the elements, which can lead to illness,” said Meg Gardinier, Secretary General of ChildFund Alliance. “We are pleased that the Alliance can play a role in the country’s recovery and in rebuilding the lives of these children and their families.”

If you wish to donate to the response, please contact us here us here.

Philippines: Philippines joins space race

25 January 2017 - 1:42am
Source: Inter Press Service Country: Philippines

MANILA, Jan 24 2017 (IPS) - The Philippines, a tiny developing country, has joined the colossal world of space technology, building its second microsatellite that it plans to launch late this year or in early 2018 — not to study other planets, but to monitor weather patterns and climate change to protect the country’s natural resources and improve disaster risk management.

Located in the Pacific Ring of Fire, a wide area in the Pacific Ocean with frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions that makes it the fourth most disaster-prone nation in the world, according to the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, the Philippines can now benefit from its first eye in the sky – a 50-kilogramme imaging and earth observation satellite while venturing, with baby steps, into space science.

Diwata (a Filipino term for a mythological character meaning “fairy”), the first small satellite, has just completed over 4,000 orbits around the world. While it continues to circle the globe, its sister Diwata-2 is now being built.

The microsatellite was launched to the International Space Station (ISS) from Cape Canaveral, Florida on Mar. 23, 2016 and deployed into space from the ISS’ Japanese Experiment Module, nicknamed “Kibo,” where it was housed and calibrated, on Apr. 27, 2016.

Joel Joseph Marciano, Jr., a professor of electrical and electronics engineering at the University of the Philippines (UP), said Diwata-1 is the first microsatellite built under the Development of Philippine Scientific Earth Observation Microsatellite (PHL-Microsat) Program that aims to enhance capacity in space technology through the development of microsatellite systems.

The three-year programme, which started in 2014 and with a budget of 840 million pesos (17.1 million dollars) is supported by the Philippine Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and implemented by several departments of UP.

Marciano, the programme leader of the PHL-Microsat, said the microsatellite was a result of ruminations by scientists after storm Haiyan, called Yolanda in the Philippines and the strongest storm ever to make landfall in recorded history, flattened Tacloban City (573 kilometers southeast of Manila) and its peripheral cities and provinces on Nov. 8, 2013.

With 250-kph winds and seven-metre high storm surges, it killed more than 6,500 people, damaged more than one million homes, 33 million coconut trees, 600,000 hectares of agricultural land and more than 1,000 public structures.

“Typhoon Haiyan was a big wake-up call. We thought hard about having remote sensing technology and scientific cameras and cable systems to help prepare for and mitigate devastation from disasters,” Marciano told journalist-fellows of the recent Graciano Lopez Jaena Journalism Workshop on science journalism organized by the UP College of Mass Communications.

He said the Philippines is one of the 10 most biologically “mega-diverse” countries in the world, with over two million sq kms of maritime waters encompassing an important part of the “coral triangle” and thousands of species of flora and fauna. Unfortunately, it is frequented by an average of nine typhoons and 10 weaker storms that make landfall each year.

“The presence of environment sensing and earth observation technology would provide a faster turn-around of information-giving and intervention,” said Marciano, who is also director of the Advanced Science and Technology Institute of the DOST.

His colleague Gay Jane Perez, a professor of the UP Institute of Environmental Science and Meteorology who is the project leader of the PHL-Micosat Remote Sensing Product Development, said one of Diwata-1’s first missions on disaster assessment were evidentiary images of the destruction caused by typhoon Haima (called Lawin in the Philippines) that struck the northern Philippines on Oct. 20, 2016.

The images, which were taken five days after the storm made landfall, provided clarity to government bodies handling the coordination of disaster relief and rehabilitation.

Perez said Diwata-1, which is barely the size of two suitcases stacked on top of each other and weighs only 50 kilograms, has special cameras that take images of the Philippines while in orbit. “The microsatellite has a unique ability while in a high vantage point to do research and to get information that complements ground monitoring,” she said. “We can translate this research product into more useful information.”

Its main parts include a high precision telescope for high resolution imaging that can be used for assessing the extent of damage during disasters; a wide field camera for observing large-scale weather patterns; and a space borne multispectral imager for monitoring bodies of water and vegetation.

Perez said resource inventory and assessment in agriculture, fisheries, forestry, mining and energy will be better. ”The microsatellite can observe meteorological events and weather updates such as typhoons and heavy rains and provide information essential to farmers and fisher folk that can help them adjust their planting and fishing methods amid changing climate conditions,” she said, adding that it can also monitor forest cover and protect cultural and historical sites and the Philippines territorial borders.

Currently in orbit with an altitude of over 400 km, Diwata-1 passes four times a day, with six minutes per pass, over the Philippines. It is expected to capture 3,600 images daily. Through its sensor, it sends images and data back to the Philippine Earth Data Resources and Observation (PEDRO) Center at the Subic Bay Freeport in Zambales province, 254 km north of Manila, its ground station.

Marciano and Perez are part of the PHL-Microsat program that includes Filipino scientists who assembled Diwata-1 in collaboration with Tohoku University and Hokkaido University, the UP and DOST’s partner universities. The all-Filipino team of scientists and engineers who designed and built Diwata-1 are now based in Japan.

Under the Philippines-Japan partnership, seven engineering students from UP and two science researchers from DOST were sent to Tohoku and Hokkaido universities to work on the microsatellite bus system and payload design while pursuing their advanced degrees.

With its first satellite blasting into space, the Philippines joins 70 other countries which, according to the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) as of 2015, are operating government space agencies and are capable of human spaceflight, which is the gold standard for space programmes.

Marciano said the country’s first steps into space technology development expects to boost governance through land use, local development planning, zoning generation and revenue through tax mapping, real property administration and tourism and infrastructure planning and monitoring in transportation and development corridors.

As it assembles Diwata-2, the Philippines also hosted for the first time in its 23‐year history the Asia-Pacific Regional Space Agency Forum in November last year. Already, Diwata-1 was cited by NASA’s Presidential Transition Binder as its poster child for small spacecraft technology.

The document that will be given to the new U.S. administration cited Diwata-1 as an example for small spacecraft technology that has many advantages of being small but powerful, adding the ease of deployment and low cost of building it.

With these initial strides, the PHL-Microsat hopes to motivate the Filipino youth to take an interest in the sciences and take advantage of this new era of space science. The UP is also introducing science journalism in its curriculum to train future journalists in understanding the sciences and to widen media writing and reporting on science.

Perez said the country’s space programme is incremental but it hopes to motivate more young people to take interest in it. “We are now training students to develop capabilities to arrive at something like Diwata-1 in the future, perhaps with their own creative and better designs.”

In addition, she said the Microsatellite Research and Instructional Facility is currently being established at the UP that will be the hub for the country’s inter-disciplinary research and development activities in space technology.