November 17, 2023
MANILA – The Philippines may soon have its own internet satellites through a multimillion-dollar project that seeks to address perennial connectivity issues in remote areas in the country.
The project was covered by one of the five agreements signed here Thursday on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) Leaders’ Summit, with President Marcos serving as witness.
US-based Astranis and Orbits Corp. signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) to bring internet connectivity to unserved and underserved areas in the Philippines by launching MicroGEO satellites.
“This $400-million partnership will help bridge our digital divide and foster our digital transformation,” Mr. Marcos said after the MOA signing at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel.
Astranis and Orbits will deploy the two internet satellites starting next year, a project expected to generate $400 million worth of investments in the next eight years.
The satellites—to be called “Agila”—are capable of providing internet connections to up to 10 million users in 30,000 communities in the country.
“The selection of the name ‘Agila,’ or the Philippine eagle, holds deep significance, embodying the project’s unwavering commitment to empowering the Filipino nation through the expansion of access to the digital world,” said Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel Romualdez, who was also present at the signing.
Aside from the dedicated internet satellites, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) signed an agreement with leading artificial intelligence (AI) meteorology company Atmo Inc. to build a high-resolution weather forecasting system for the country.
Once operational, it would be Asia’s largest AI-driven weather forecasting program which, according to Mr. Marcos, would “help the Philippines build its climate resilience.”
Another agreement was signed during the same ceremony between Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) and and the US corporation, Ultra Safe Nuclear Cooperation (USNC), for a prefeasibility study on micromodular reactors (MMRs) to explore clean and sustainable energy options in the Philippines.
The Meralco-USNC agreement, the President said, was “aligned with our commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase resilience to climate change.”
In his first State of the Nation Address in July 2022, Marcos ordered the Department of Energy and National Economic and Development Authority to explore the possibility of developing small-scale modular nuclear power plants, subject to compliance with international safety standards and regulations.
Filipino firm Lloyd Laboratories and US-based DifGen Pharmaceutic also signed a $20-million joint venture agreement to boost local production of medicines.
Presidential Communications Secretary Cheloy Velicaria-Garafil said that Lloyd Laboratories would invest $20 million for the establishment and operation of the first US Food and Drug Administration-approved manufacturing facility in the Philippines, “contributing to the advancement of the [country’s] position as a key player in the global pharmaceutical industry.”
Marcos likewise witnessed the signing of a cooperation agreement between Ayala Corp.’s AC Health and Varian Medical Systems to build the first Philippine cancer hospital.
The two firms will share their expertise in establishing and running AC Health’s Healthway Cancer Care Hospital, a dedicated specialty oncology facility “to ensure an efficient way of delivering services to patients and making cancer care more accessible to Filipinos,” Garafil said.
In another meeting with potential investors, the President assured the Semiconductor Industry Association in the United States that both the public and private sectors in the Philippines were ready to work with the group should it plan to invest or expand in the the country.
He told members that the government considers the semiconductor and electronics industries among its top priority sectors, pointing to the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises, or CREATE Act, which could grant incentives for up to 40 years to highly desirable projects with a minimum investment capacity of P50 billion.