Change is coming (2/2): Mainstreaming Space Technology in HEI curriculum

Dec. 08, 2016

Last of 2 parts

QUEZON CITY, Philippines — For being a disaster-prone nation visited, on average, by 20 typhoons annually, the government claims to have some changes to its disaster risk reduction and management program by going into high technology.

The historic launch to space of Diwata 1, the country’s first earth observation microsatelli te last March, marked a significant feat to the country’s bid to have its own space program and develop a Philippine Space Agency.

For its part, the Philippines Atmospheric, Geophysical, Astronomical, Service Administration’s (PAG-ASA) pioneered the Automatic Water Level Sensor, a solar-powered and satellite-based device that monitors water level in real time.

The provincial government of Davao del Norte is one of the recipients of the weather bureau’s ongoing project aimed at improving its  flood forecasting and warning system.

“This really helps the province’s disaster risk management effective in our concern areas,” said Eric Rebuta Rosillo, head of Davao del Norte Planning and Early Warning Section, a component of the province’s Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

Rosillo said 24 water level monitoring sensors—a pressure and ultrasonic type—were installed in Davao del Norte’s upstream areas, namely: Libuganon, Saug, Tuganay and Hijo rivers.  The water level sensors were also installed in the towns of Talaingod, Kapalong, New Corella, Asuncion, Sto. Tomas, Braulio E. Dujali, Tagum City and Panabo City, respectively.

“Both these sensors are present in our province. Pressure type system means the sensor will interpret the increasing water level of a particular level based on the water pressure. This transmission of data is being sent to PDRRMC operation center through radio wave or radio frequency every 10 minutes,” he added.

“Another sensor is the ultra sonic system. It means the water level data will be interpreted by means of sound emitted by the raging waters. The data would also be sent to DOST’s Project NOAH platform through mobile phone signals every 15 minutes.”

The production of water level data is the terminal point of PAG-ASA’s Automatic Water Level Sensor technology. However, it is emphasized that the local government units have an essential role in the implementation of the province’s disaster management.

Romulo Tagalo, officer-in-charge of Provincial Environment and National Resources Office, said that “LGUs have the obligation to disseminate and interpret the data and make sense of it to plan for preparedness and mitigation.”

The data generated by the water level sensor was communicated to the local government units, local disaster body, and social media as well. The  PDRRMC’s Facebook page  posts typhoon forecast,  monitoring results, and weather alerts.

“We purposely set-up such page so that our stakeholders will be able to know that water level in their communities,” said Glenda Delideli, Davao del Norte’s PDRRMC Division chief.

She said that each local government unit’s Municipal Information Office and Local Disaster Risk Reduction Office have set-up also a similar Facebook page to hasten the communication process during the impending disaster.

The utilization of technology was integrated into the Davao del Norte’s community-based disaster awareness campaign dubbed as “Oplan Andam (Advocacy on Natural Disaster Awareness and Management).”

Launched in 2013, Oplan Andam has been rolled out in Davao del Norte’s 64 flood-prone areas. The program was also integrated into Department of Education’s annual Brigada Eskwela to involve schools and make them safe for students since some public schools are located in low-lying areas.

Core to Oplan Andam is the use of Geographic Information System and hazard maps that would identify safe and unsafe areas as well as evacuation points in the province.

For instance, the local Barangay Disaster Risk Reduction Office in Carmen town, Davao del Norte, conducts  a routine check of the warning signages and devices, evacuation sites, and life-saving equipment as part of their disaster preparations.  Carmen is a first class municipality that has at least 20 flood-prone barangays including La Paz.

La Paz village captain, Eduardo T. Ringcodo Sr., said that they get weather alerts and flood and water level warning through Short Messaging System or SMS, which sent by the PDRRMC. The province’s disaster body operates a Disaster Briefing Command and Operation Center located inside the Davao del Norte Provincial Capitol. It has more than 20 personnel , which will be activated only upon the order of the governor.

“The flood warning is really important for us because we can have enough time to prepare in case there’s a need to evacuate,” Ringcodo.

Space technology curriculum

To sustain the current momentum in upgrading the country’s disaster management, Joel Joseph Marciano, Jr.,  acting director of the Advanced Science and Technology Institute – Department of Science and Technology (DOST-ASTI), said they are planning to develop a course and training materials on small satellite technology design and testing.

He said the University of the Philippines is proposing to incorporate “space technology” in the Science and Engineering curricula for undergraduate and post-graduate elective level.

A microsatellite testing facility and radio satellite station are being set-up inside the university campus as part of the Microsatellite Research and Instructional Facility.  (

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