Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Ateneo-La Salle team-up ramps us geomatics in Southern Philippines

MANRESA, Cagayan de Oro City (Mike Baños/January 31) – Bitter rivals in the academics and athletic hard courts, two institutions have linked up to harness the tremendous potential of the famed Ateneo – De La Salle rivalry for more constructive purposes: pushing geomatics capability building and its application in sustainable development by local government units, protecting the environment and training the future generations of academics and technicians to ensure its sustainability over the long term.

Last January 24, the Xavier University College of Agriculture (XUCA) in cooperation with the Environmental Science for Social Change (ESSC) hosted an international public academe conference on "Geomatics Technology and its Potential Contributions to Development" at the South East Asia Rural Social Leadership Institute (Searsolin) at the XUCA campus in Upper Carmen, Cagayan de Oro City.

"We wanted to present the project's achievements to a wider audience including the academe, local government units (LGUs), civic society and the private business sector," said Dr. Robert J. Holmer, coordinator for the Geoteach –Censophil (Geomatics Technology as an Empowering Tool for Academic Institutions in Community Participatory Development and Human Resource Mobilization for Urban Agriculture and Natural Resources Management in the Central and Southern Philippines) Project.

Since January 1, 2005, five partner institutions from the Philippines, Belgium and Germany have been jointly implementing the Euro 666,225 Geoteach-Censophil project with 60% financial assistance from the European Union under its Asia IT&C Program.

"The project aimed to develop Centers of Competence in Geomatics Technology in Xavier University College of Agriculture (XUCA), Cagayan de Oro and University of Saint La Salle, Bacolod (USLS)," said Prof. Dr. Peter Freckmann, head of the geoinformation dept. at the University of Applied Sciences in Karlsruhe, Germany. "I can say with confidence all project objectives have been met, and the partner institutions should now address the issue of its long term sustainability."

Among the notable accomplishments of the project has been the training of two counterpart staff each from the USLS and XUCA at a special geomatics certificate course facilitated by the European project partners University of Applied Sciences, Karlsruhe, Germany (HsKA) and the University of Our Lady of Peace, Namur, Belgium (FUNDP) which included the successful defense of an applied research thesis by each graduate.

The theses submitted by the four Ateneo-La Salle counterpart staff were "Monitoring Land Use Change in Urban Barangays of Cagayan de Oro City Using GIS" (Mark Alexis O. Sabines, Agricultural Engineering Dept., XUCA), "Use of GIS in Mapping Open Spaces for the Identification of Potential Allotment Garden Sites in Districts 6 & 7 of Barangay Macasandig, Cagayan de Oro City (Yvette B. Guanzon, Agronomist, Periurban Vegetable Project, XUCA), "Assessment of Former Open Dumpsites in Barangay Madalagan of Bacolod City using GIS" (Mary Ann T. Paandan, GIS Coordinator, USLS) and "Integrating GIS and Community Mapping for Solid Waste Management Planning System in Barangay Punta Taytay, Bacolod City," (Ericson Alarcon, GIS Specialist, USLS).

"I am quite impressed with their ability to defend their theses according to European standards," said Dr. Francoise Orban-Feraupe, head, Geography Dept. of the University Of Our Lady Of Peace (FUNDP) in Namur, Belgium. "The social concern in their works is very prominent."

Geomatics is the discipline of gathering, storing, processing, and delivering of geographic information, or spatially referenced information. It has also been defined as the measurement and survey component of the broader field of geographic information systems. It commonly includes tools and techniques used in land surveying, remote sensing, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Global Positioning System (GPS), and related forms of earth mapping.

The term geomatics has been adopted by the International Organization for Standardization, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, and many other international authorities, although some (especially in the United States) prefer to refer to it as "geospatial technology".

Applications areas include the environment, land management and reform, urban planning, subdivision planning, infrastructure management, natural resource monitoring and development;
coastal zone management and mapping, archaeological excavation and survey for GIS applications, disaster informatics for disaster risk reduction and response

The conference also discussed the sub-themes: "Geomatics in Local Planning;" "Geomatics in the Environment" and "Ethics and Social Perspectives in Geomatics."

Estrella Sagaral, Acting Cagayan de Oro City Planning and Development Coordinator, cited how GIS technology which was initiated with assistance from the Australian government in 1997, was instrumental in facilitating the completion of the city's Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP).

Arturo Belcena, administrative officer of the Bukidnon Sugar Milling Co., Inc. (Busco) said their company has been offering GIS mapping to their 13, 000 farmer planters for the last five years to assist them in monitoring their expenses in land preparation and harvesting the 60,000 hectares planted to sugar cane in southern Bukidnon.

Holmer also cited in his final report how geomatics laboratories dubbed "Geoteach Centers" equipped with GIS hardware, software and plotters have also been established at USLS and XUCA with the assistance of ESSC. Through the concerted effort of all project partners, geomatics-based training modules have been offered to faculty of both Philippine universities and other clientele.

"This Geoteach Center will eventually be turned over to the XUCA Agricultural Engineering staff for integration into the curriculum," Mr. Roel R. Ravanera, XUCA dean.

Geomatics applications have been integrated in academic and outreach curricula with special emphases on social and ethical perspectives. Besides XUCA, UP Mindanao in Davao City also has a fully equipped GIS laboratory and training center.

LGUs in Northern Mindanao which now have GIS facilities include Cagayan de Oro, Iligan and Ozamiz. Similar facilities have also been deployed to their regional offices like the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), he added.

In his closing remarks, Dr. Anselmo Mercado, executive director of the Xavier Science Foundation and concurrently Searsolin director, cited how geomatics jibed perfectly with the XUCA's shift of its development paradigm from the traditional (problem-based) model to the ABCD or "Asset-Based Community Development" approach.

'The "ABCD" or Asset-Based Community Development Approach is the alternative paradigm that views people, their communities and their potentials for development very positively," Mercado explained. "This approach takes full cognizance of the communities' assets, no matter what, how big or small their resources are.

"Viewed from this perspective, the community development process, therefore, begins with a mapping of the community assets. This very crucial step provides the opportunity and the hands-on education for the people in the community to identify, discover, analyze, mobilize, learn and appreciate to build primarily on their inner strengths and resources for their own development."

"It is on this aspect that we believe the technology of Geomatics will come handily as a very useful resource that can enhance and complement the "ABCD" model," Mercado said. "From the presentations, we have seen how Geomatics can be an excellent tool for local planning. It is a great tool for studying and examining the environmental issues in our society. No doubt, Geomatics has a lot to contribute to the socio-economic development of our people and communities."

A geographic information system (GIS) or more commonly referred to as a geospatial information system is a system for capturing, storing, analyzing and managing data and associated attributes which are spatially referenced to the earth. In layman's terms, it is a computer system capable of integrating, storing, editing, analyzing, sharing, and displaying geographically-referenced information.

Thus, users can create interactive queries (user created searches), analyze the spatial information, edit data, and present the results of all these operations. Geographic information science is the science underlying the applications and systems, taught as a degree program by several universities.

Geographic information system technology can be used for scientific investigations, resource management, asset management, Environmental Impact Assessment (EIS), urban planning, cartography, criminology, history, sales, marketing, and route planning.

For instance, GIS can help emergency planners to quickly calculate emergency response times in the event of a natural disaster, or find wetlands that need protection from pollution, or used by a company to find new potential customers similar to the ones they already have and project sales due to expanding into that market.

Many disciplines can benefit from GIS technology. An active GIS market has resulted in lower costs and continual improvements in the hardware and software components of GIS. These developments will, in turn, result in a much wider use of the technology throughout science, government, business, and industry, with applications including real estate, public health, crime mapping, national defense, sustainable development, natural resources, transportation and logistics.

A recent trend has been the integration of GIS into location-based services (LBS). LBS allows GPS enabled mobile devices to display their location in relation to fixed points (nearest restaurant, gas station, fire hydrant), mobile assets (friends, children, police car) or to relay their position back to a central server for display or other processing. These services continue to develop with the increased integration of GPS functionality with increasingly powerful mobile electronics (cell phones, PDA's, laptops).


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