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Eye in the sky

The Department of Science and Technology and the National Security Council signed a memorandum of agreement Wednesday to implement the Synthetic Aperture Radar and Automatic Identification System for the Innovative Terrestrial Monitoring and Maritime Surveillance (SAR with AIS) project that aims to improve the country’s terrestrial and maritime monitoring capabilities through the NovaSAR-1 satellite.

National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said the project would help improve the country’s “capacity of maritime awareness and even enhance our position in the West Philippine Sea” as the country was previously monitoring more than 2.2 million square kilometers of the country’s exclusive economic zones mostly through air and sea “sovereignty patrols.”

NovaSAR-1 is a small SAR satellite launched into a 580km sun-synchronous orbit in September 2018. It is able to acquire earth observation data through cloud cover day and night, and detect structures on water such as ships. Its AIS receiver allows the satellite to collect ship information across the Philippine EEZ.

Among the agencies that now use the data from SAR with AIS project are the NSC, National Coast Watch System, Philippine Coast Guard, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, and the Laguna Lake Development Authority.

According to Esperon, satellite data will help the government find swarms of Chinese ships in the West Philippine Sea.

Considering what is at stake in the West Philippine Sea, our country’s defense apparatus and leadership should have done this earlier but as usual, it is better late than never. We will need to build our case to defend our country from China’s unbridled aggressive expansion and access to such information can be a powerful tool as we craft our defenses in the disputed areas that should’ve been constantly upgraded and improved instead of adopting the prevailing defeatist attitude being displayed by our country’s leaders.*

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