Hokkaido University liaison office opened

A delegation from Hokkaido University (HU) in Japan and officials of the University of the Philippines formally opened the HU nook at UP Diliman (UPD) on Mar. 6.

Located at the ground floor of the Diliman Interactive Learning Center, the nook is the first facility of its kind set up by an international university at UPD, Chancellor Michael L. Tan said. The nook is a liaison office designed to facilitate the participation of UPD students and faculty members in the academic exchange programs between UPD and HU.

HU was established in 1876 as the Sapporo Agricultural College. According to its website, HU is “a leading comprehensive university that places importance on its graduate schools…During its long history, it was promoted to an Imperial University and then flourished after the creation of the new university system.”

Both universities formally signed a memorandum of agreement for collaborative research, student exchange and academic networking on July 16, 2014. However, even before the agreement, “UP and HU were already engaged in some successful research,” Dr. Gil Jacinto, UP Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs and Director of the Office for International Linkages said.

“Of particular interest here are the projects on the development of bioactive natural products from marine sponges that began in 2010 at The Marine Science Institute, and the project on human environmental security in the Pacific rim that started in 2013 at the National Institute of Geological Sciences that likewise involved scientists from Canada, Indonesia and the United States,” Jacinto said.

HU plays a vital role in the Diwata program, which sought to design and build the first Filipino microsatellite, Tan said.

Also known as PHL-Microsat-1, Diwata 1 was launched into the International Space Station on March 23, 2016 and deployed into orbit on April 27, 2016. 

A team of nine Filipino engineers from the Department of Science and Technology (DOST)-Advanced Science and Technology Institute and UP, dubbed the ‘Magnificent 9’, were responsible for the development and production of Diwata-1 and collaborated with scientists and engineers from two Japanese universities, Hokkaido University and Tohoku University,” according to directory.eoportal.org.

The same site notes, “HU and Tohoku University of Japan initiated a project to send 50 microsatellites to space by 2050 to photograph the aftermath of natural disasters, partnering with governments, universities and other organizations based in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Mongolia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. Two satellites are commissioned for the Philippine government.”

Diwata-2 is projected to be launched in the second quarter of 2018.

“We want to promote more scientific research projects with UPD and the government of the Philippines…We will make use of this facility as much as possible. We hope to accept the excellent students from UPD,” said Prof. Yukihiro Takahashi, director of the HU Liaison Office.

He said prior to the Diwata program, he did not know much about the Philippines but he knew UP was the best university to work with “because students sent from UPD are very excellent compared to the other countries. They work very hard and we achieved, in one year and three months, the deployment of the satellite. This is a modern record.”

Takahashi has been involved in four programs namely: “Philippine Scientific Earth Observation Microsatellite” (2015-2018); “Development of extreme weather monitoring and information sharing system in the Philippines” (2017-2022); “Monitoring and prediction of extreme weather using lightning detection network and micro satellites” (2016-2019); and Establishment of observing means for dynamics of the Earth Environment in Asia with microsatellites” (2016-2019). All programs have, as counterparts, the Electrical and Electronics Engineering Institute of the College of Engineering and the Institute of Environment Science and Meteorology of the College of Science.

To date, UPD has sent eight exchange students to HU. UP’s academic cooperation with HU has “provided a mechanism for the exchange of administrative staff, students and faculty,” Jacinto said.

According to Tan, UPD is putting up a Japanese Studies Program. “My vision for the program is it will go beyond language and art; it must include science and technology because a lot of our science and engineering faculty had their training in Japan.”

In addition, he promised the HU delegation to relocate the nook to a larger place. “We will move to a much larger place and you will always be proud to say that you started it all.” Tan said he is considering to house future university nooks at Ikeda Hall, which was donated by Prof. Ikeda of Soka Gakai years ago.

Currently, HU is in pursuit of its goals of contributing towards the resolution of global issues, said Prof. Hiroshi Amitsuka, Dean of the Graduate School of Science. “One important strategy is to make our campus more cultural. In the next seven years, we will increase the number of foreign students to study at HU from 1,900 to 4,000. The University also plans to increase the number of students studying overseas from about 500 to about 1,700.”

He also said the number of Filipino students at HU is about 30 percent. “To our delight, this number is more than double the number two years ago. The increase is thanks largely to the microsatellite project led by Prof. Takahashi in cooperation with UP and subsidized by the DOST.”

Atsushi Kuwabara, Consul General of the Embassy of Japan in Manila, congratulated UP for successfully setting up the liaison office. “Japan and the Philippines have a very good relationship; we have deepened our relationship politically, economically and in many fields.” He said there are some 167,000 students currently studying in Japan and 1,800 are Filipinos. 

An academic exchange meeting at various colleges followed the opening ceremony.

The HU delegation of some 80 academics also included Prof. So Kawanobe, Deputy Executive Director of the Institute for International Collaboration and HU Representative Porf. Tatsufumi Okino. Other UP officials were Dr. Evangeline C. Amor, UPD Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Dr. Amelia P. Guevarra, HU Ambassor, Dr. Imee S. Martinez, Director of the Office of International Linkages Diliman (OILD) and Prof. Gilda L. Uy, Program Development Associate for Student Mobility for OILD.