The Philippines achieved a milestone in science when it launched DIWATA, the first microsatellite designed, developed, and assembled by Filipino researchers and engineers, into space on March 23, 2016.
Through DIWATA, the Philippines could enjoy “improved weather detection and forecasts, disaster risk management, detecting agricultural growth patterns, and the monitoring of forest cover, mining, protection of cultural and historical sites, and the territorial borders of the Philippines.”
But the launch of the microsatellite didn’t come without drama, as Paolo Espiritu, one of the engineers of the project, complained about their “outrageous treatment” from the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) while building the microsatellite in Japan.
According to his now-viral post:
It all started in 2014, when we were invited to work on the project. We have just finished our engineering degrees then, and naturally we were all excited to build the Philippines’ first microsatellite. But upon receiving the contracts, all of us were confused as to exactly what our involvement in the project is. All the contract entailed was for us to receive a scholarship to study Aerospace Engineering in exchange for years of return service. Of course to build the satellite, we would have to study the technology behind it, and so we expected that the scholarship was a given part of the project. But according to the contract, that was it. Nothing more followed. According to the contract, we are to build the satellite without pay, with 4 years of return service. On paper, we were just students. On paper, we weren’t part of the project. On paper, we were not engineers.
They tried to direct their concerns, but were asked to take it in “good faith,” to which the team accepted because of their respect and trust for the government agency.
However, upon reaching Japan, they experienced “outrageous treatment,” even working long hours and weekends, including Christmas. He also claimed not to be included in the project, despite being the engineers. Espiritu added that they “are being used as tools in their projects, no more value than the science equipment and apparatus.”
Now, the DOST has released an official statement to answer Espiritu’s concerns.
According to the agency:
DOST finds nothing derogatory with the term “student”. [And] as scholars, the Diwata-1 engineers in fact receive stipends 35% higher compared to what a Monbusho scholarship provides. On top of that they also get additional compensation for their work in the development of the microsatellite.
On their concern on the workload of the original seven (7) engineers, the program team responded by sending two (2) additional engineers to help in the Diwata-1 development. Moreover, for Diwata-2, more personnel will be sent and longer development time will be provided.
The DOST and the PHL-Microsat Program reiterate their recognition of the efforts of the Filipino engineers and scientists involved in the development of Diwata-1and continue to highlight and emphasize their contributions and accomplishments in various venues.
10.A return service obligation is a conditio sine qua non imposed on all governmentfunded scholarships. This return service obligation can be fulfilled by working in the Philippines for the required number of years with salaries paid by employers whether in government, private entities or the academe.11.The service bonds are not meant as payment for scholarships and expenses made by the state for all grantees/scholars. They provide a mechanism for the country to benefit from what our scientists and engineers have learned in their programs. DOST is currently supporting more than 16,000 S&T undergraduate scholars and Philippine Science High School scholars and more than 2,000 Masters and Doctoral students both here and abroad.12.The return service obligations are in accordance with existing laws and policies and are clearly stated in the contracts signed by the engineers. However, DOST will continue to explore equitable terms within the boundaries of such laws and policies.