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DENR names EMB engineers, air quality specialists to fly with NASA with scientists

CLARK FREEPORT — Five engineers and air quality specialists from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) – Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) will join top NASA scientists on board scientific research flights from February 11 to 15 to study the atmosphere in Metro Manila and its surrounding regions from space to the surface of the earth.

Within the week, the team will go on four research flights aboard two aircraft, the NASA G-III and NASA DC-8, which are both based in this Freeport.

“The EMB team of young and dedicated engineers and air quality specialists will join the flights to learn and observe so we can build technical capacity and expertise,” DENR Secretary Maria Antonia Loyzaga disclosed.

The Philippine leg of the airborne field campaign is part of the Airborne and Satellite Investigation of Asian Air Quality (ASIA-AQ), a partnership that brings together experts from NASA of the United States, the DENR, and in collaboration with the Philippine Space Agency (PhilSA), Manila Observatory, Ateneo de Manila University, and the University of the Philippines.

Leading the team is Engr. Chadbert Nikko Aquino, a 29-year-old Electronics Engineering graduate who specializes as an Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Specialist. He is joined by Engr. Paul Vallar, also 29, who has a background in Chemical Engineering and expertise in stationary source and ambient air quality monitoring. 

Engr. Brix Faustino, aged 30, holds a degree in Applied Physics with a specialization in instrumentation and serves as another proficient ambient air quality monitoring specialist within the team. Adding to their expertise is Engr. Billy William Franco, 39, an Electronics and Communications Engineering graduate working as an Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Specialist at the DENR-EMB Region 3 office. Rounding out the team is Engr. Zeus Aragones, 34, also an Electronics and Communications Engineering graduate, who serves as another Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Specialist at the DENR-EMB National Capital Region office.

They will be joining the lead scientists from the United States, which will be led by Dr. Barry Lefer, NASA’s Tropospheric Composition Program Scientist; Dr. James Crawford, ASIA-AQ Lead Scientist at NASA Langley Research Center; and Dr. Louisa Emmons, ASIA-AQ Forecasting Team Lead at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. They will be collaborating with Atmospheric Scientists from the Manila Observatory’s Air Quality Dynamics Laboratory composed of Dr. James Bernard B. Simpas, Dr. Maria Obiminda L. Cambaliza, and Dr. Melliza T. Cruz.

Secretary Loyzaga earlier stated that the collaboration with NASA, a first for the Philippines, “will help improve air quality models, provide accurate forecasts, and develop effective policies to ensure better air quality in the future.” The campaign will also serve as a platform for the Philippines to understand its local air quality issues, improve its interpretation of satellite observations, and develop better air quality models.

Loyzaga, whose major thrust is environmental protection and natural resource conservation, underscores the critical role of strengthening partnerships with space agencies such as NASA and PhilSA to use satellite imagery and other space science and technology applications to support the country’s development of strategies for science-based, risk-informed, ethical, and equitable stewardship of the environment.