MANILA -- Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Secretary Fortunato dela Peña on Thursday asked the Office of the President (OP) to initiate drafting the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the country's would-be Space Agency.

In an interview with the Philippine News Agency (PNA), dela Pena said that technically, it is the job of the Space Agency to craft its IRR. "But since we don't have one, then I would ask the OP to initiate the drafting. I am writing the President that they (OP) initiate it. I think the IRR must come 60 days after the publication of the law," he said.

Last August 8, President Rodrigo Duterte signed into law Republic Act 1163 (Philippine Space Act), which will establish the Philippine Space Development and Utilization Policy that will create the Philippine Space Agency (PhilSA).

Dela Pena said the Space Agency will have a Space Council to be headed by the President, and vice chaired by the DOST and the Department of National Defense.

It will also have members, composed of the Committee on Science and Technology of both the upper and lower chamber, the Department of Finance, National Economic and Development Authority, Department of Trade and Industry, Department of Agriculture, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Information and Communications Technology, and private sector, he added.

The agency will have a director general (equivalent of a Cabinet Secretary) and deputy director generals who will take care of policy and planning, and of utilizing the resources or what the country could benefit from the space.

They will also be in-charge of activities, such as launching of microsatellites abroad, for instance.

At least 25 percent of the Space Agency's income would go the National Treasury, according to dela Pena.

He added that there is a Space Development Fund amounting to PHP 10 million, of which a portion would come from PAGCOR (Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation) and BCDA (Bases Conversion and Development Authority).

Initially, the Space Agency also has PHP 1 billion coming from OP's 2019 budget, dela Pena said.

The DOST chief remarked that the IRR would tackle the main tasks and responsibilities of each member. He also shared that the director general would not necessarily come from the agencies involved, and might be a different individual.

Necessary

Dela Pena said the DOST alone is not enough if the country would want to give focus on space technology.

"Our (DOST's) institutes are not enough. We have an institute focusing on textiles, on nuclear (research). We need to have a Space Agency," he admitted.

The space technology, which involves remote sensing, is very important for security, agriculture, crops, settlements, dela Pena noted.

"In the past, we ask for satellite images from other countries. Some were providing access, while we pay the others. Now, we could rely on our own," he said.

He continued, "If I'm not mistaken, aside from us, there are only three countries in the ASEAN region that do not have a Space Agency. We should not stay in that status."

Meanwhile, dela Pena said he is very happy with the government's support, and that the RA 1163 was passed within the 17th Congress.

"I would like to thank the President, because even if it was not among the priority bills presented to him, we didn't have to wait for the 18th Congress," he said.

Dela Pena also expressed gratitude to the bill supporters, particularly to Bohol Representative Erico Aristotle Aumentado, and former Senator Bam Aquino. (PNA)