By Michael Aaron Gomez

Representatives of the Ateneo de Davao University Aerospace Engineering program recently visited the local government of Mati City for a courtesy visit as well as a
discussion of the plans for a future Philippine space program with Mayor Carlo
Rabat. The AdDU contingent comprised some University representatives, the
students of the Aerospace Engineering program, and its coordinator,
astro-geophysicist Fr. Daniel J. McNamara, SJ. This visit came after the news
that Mati City in Davao Oriental is being eyed as the “first Philippine
satellite launch site” with the proposed Philippine Space Agency bill, which is
currently awaiting ratification into law this year, pending amendments. Fr.
McNamara is also one of the consultants on the drafting of the law.

            McNamara, in a conversation with Sun
Star Davao, noted that building the launch site at Mati City is advantageous
for spacecraft landing, “since it is near the equator.” As well, Fr. McNamara
also said that investors in aerospace development are interested in the
project, including those from the “ASEAN and European countries.” Some of these
investors are also involved in the processing of rocket fuel from indigenous
products such as coconut, calamansi, banana, durian, etc. In the same
conversation, McNamara also said that “the Philippines spends millions of pesos
every year to buy information from satellites from other countries. [The AdDU
Aerospace Engineering program’s] motto is that it would be too expensive not to

[build the satellite launch site in Mati]

.” Creating a national space agency is
long overdue, he added. Because the country will now build its own satellites,
its ability to gather data on agriculture, climate, and health will be vastly
improved.

            In the presentation prepared by the
Aerospace Engineering program for the Mati City government are a variety of
projects which could be undertaken by locally built satellites. Among these are
monitoring the health of crops and optimizing fertilizer use; forecasting the
weather; monitoring the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere;
observing ocean behavior, specifically sea surface temperatures; helping
fishermen catch more fish from information on school movement; improving
fishermen’s safety; and enhancing capabilities to stop illegal fishing.

            The Ateneo de Davao University Aerospace Engineering program is the first undergraduate program of its kind in the country. It is designed to enable the Philippine Space Agency to better accomplish its mandate of establishing the first Philippine spacecraft launch site in Mindanao. For its strategic niche in this new area of space research, the AsEng program will specialize in modeling the Earth’s atmosphere. This will allow the aerospace program to benefit from its partnership with the half-century-old research program of the upper atmosphere carried out by the Manila Observatory in Mindanao and Luzon. The AdDU AsEng program operates under the belief that “Having a space program is expensive, but not having a space program is even more expensive for the country.”

Fr. Daniel J. McNamara, S.J., Astro-geophysicist and Coordinator of the AdDU Aerospace Engineering Program (6th from left), poses for a photo with his students and AdDU representatives and members of the Mati City government, including Mayor Carlo Rabat (center).
Photo Credit: Mati City government; SunStar Davao