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PH’s own satellite service to improve maritime surveillance

/ 07:09 PM March 16, 2021

MANILA, Philippines—The Philippines now has its own ‘eye in the sky,’ or satellite service, to improve maritime surveillance.

A project, called Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) and Automatic Identification System (AIS) for Innovative Terrestrial Monitoring and Maritime Surveillance, is being implemented by the Department of Science and Technology-Advanced Science and Technology Institute (DOST-ASTI) to provide real time satellite images of “priority areas.”

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This would be done through the NovaSAR-1 satellite, which was designed and built by UK-based Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. The Philippines acquired NovaSAR-1 satellite services in August 2019. The small S-band, or with multiple applications, SAR satellite was launched into orbit in 2018.

Through the satellite service, the Philippines would be able to detect anomalies in its territorial waters in real time, including in the West Philippine Sea which is part of the disputed South China Sea which Asian behemoth China is claiming to own entirely.

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“The need to acquire space technology was seen as critical and important,” said Maria Victoria Castro, assistant director general of the National Security Council (NSC), at a recent online briefing.

“This is because this is the ultimate means of guaranteeing situational awareness, particularly in the maritime domain,” Castro said.

Castro said the use of satellite technology was a new approach to security as the Philippines would be able to operate the NovaSAR-1 satellite and acquire the latest imagery unlike in the past when the country had to pay for images from third party providers.

The NSC and DOST are set to sign a memorandum of agreement to collaborate on research and allow the NSC to be the main coordinating agency for requests for security-related images taken by the NovaSAR-1 satellite.

The two agencies have ongoing training programs that included identification of ships and facilities in Philippine maritime territory that would appear on satellite images, Castro said.

The pandemic, however, “affected the effectiveness” of the training programs as heavy internet use during lockdowns had an effect on internet speeds.

John Baxinela, assistant director general of National Coast Watch Center (NCWC), said he believed the coordination would “enhance our monitoring and surveillance capability through this state-of-the-art technology that DOST-ASTI has given us.”

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The Philippines is confronted with maritime security threats that included piracy, kidnapping, terrorism and other crimes at sea. These highlight the need for strong maritime surveillance.

Data or images from NovaSAR-1 satellite would be available to registered partner agencies, including security firms and the academe, through the Surveillance, Identification and Assessment Using Satellites (Siyasat) digital portal.

The system could also be used for disaster management, monitoring of infrastructure projects, environmental degradation, and internal security threats.

The project “embodies what the Philippine Space Agency (PhilSA) vision is about,” said Joel Joseph Marciano Jr., PhilSA director general.

“A Filipino nation bridged, uplifted and empowered in the peaceful uses of outer space,” he said.

“This collaboration is a prime example of how the space ecosystem can add and create value in space for the country,” he said.

He said the PhilSA will build on the successes of this project and committed to expand its reach and benefits.

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TAGS: maritime surveillance, National Security Council, Philippine Space Agency, SAR AIS, Security, SIYASAT, Threats
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