Sylvia Esperanza, 2015

PAHRODF Case Studies

Results Story 19:  Spatial Information

Applying Spatial Competencies in Mapping Resources

Sylvia Esperanza, has been with NAMRIA (National Mapping and Resource Information Authority) for almost 16 years.  As NAMRIA’s senior remotes and technologies officer, she is expected to prepare accurate coastal resource maps.

In 2011, Sylvia was chosen to be one of the recipients of the prestigious Australia Awards Scholarships. With this opportunity, she was able to enhance her competency in geographic information systems. Taking a year off from work, she went on to complete her Masters in Science and Technology, Spatial Information at the University of New South Wales in Sydney.  Sylvia describes the university as ‘amazing’. She shares, “Most of the resources are there.  It has advanced technology and the environment is very conducive to learning.”

Upon her return to NAMRIA, Sylvia moved full steam ahead to implement her Re-Entry Action Plan (REAP), a plan designed to apply her learnings to address organisational gaps. This focused on the development of automated tools for vulnerability mapping. As Sylvia explains, her choice of REAP was driven by the need to standardise mapping procedures that can be applied to all the 81 provinces all over the country. “We do special analysis of different national data and this involves complex procedures. Because these are complex, they are subject to inconsistencies.” According to Sylvia, because NAMRIA is a mapping agency, standardisation is crucial. “So that we can avoid inconsistencies and can produce a more accurate output,” she adds.  With the automated tools in place, standardisation becomes achievable.

From vision to fruition

Evaluating the task at hand, Sylvia concluded that she had to work with their current Geographical Information Systems (GIS) software and bring it to a level of automation that would help produce the output needed.  As she explains it, GIS is a powerful analytical tool that has the capability to store, analyse and integrate data from a variety of sources.  For NAMRIA, this is particularly useful as the software sifts through data from different sets of maps to help them come up with one accurate, comprehensive map.

Sylvia discloses that there was a lot of work required to institute the process of standardisation and get the outcome desired – research, establishing the criteria, formulations.  “The project had to be defined first before I could start formulating my tools.  And all of these had to be incorporated in the tools in order to run and come up with the final output,” Grateful for the support of her supervisor, she says  the project could not have successfully gotten off the ground without his nod.  “Without his support, I would not be able to work on what I want to do.  At the same time, he gave me the resources I needed in terms of equipment. Not much financial assistance was needed because the computer and the system - the software, were already provided for me to be able to do my REAP.”

Sylvia shares that since her REAP was contained in her division and aligned with the project of the Resource and Analysis Branch where she is connected, she has been able to implement it quite smoothly.  When she returned from Australia, the office was in the process of obtaining International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) certification, and one of the initiatives identified was in environment and resource mapping. “That was one of the main concerns of the branch.  Our objective was to create timely and accurate maps and give these maps to our clients.  So with that direction, my REAP was aligned since my output is to standardize the process to make it more accurate.”  By the end of 2013, her REAP was in place and continues to be used.  She proudly announces, “It’s already complete.  The tool that I have formulated for my REAP is still being used now for the production of maps.  It’s a tool that is embedded in the GIS software that we are using.”

On to other things

Not to sit back idly, Sylvia continues to contribute to the agency’s objective of creating maps that meet their targets and the needs of their clients and stakeholders.

Since she is currently involved in coastal mapping, her remote sensing subject during her scholarship in Australia is now serving her well as she has been able to apply her learnings.  “We use satellite GPS to be able to map the coastal resources, the corals, the sea grass and basically how the mapping should be,” she explains.  With a direct stake in producing these maps, this is one concrete way for her to help the organisation meet its goals.

She also reckons that these maps are of particular importance to stakeholders in the provinces. “It is very important for them because it is input, especially for the LGUs (Local Government Units), in their planning, say for their coastal resources,” she stresses.  According to Sylvia, a good base map is necessary for ENR (Environment and Natural Resources) so they can be cognisant of information such as where the corals and sea grass are, where they can be collected, the amount available, and other similar data.

Sylvia admits though that since this project is new, they have yet to integrate the data and ensure that the details are accurate.  “For now, we are still in the process of finalising the output for the whole Philippines.” Once done, the output can eventually be released to the public and distributed to the stakeholders.  “We are still pursuing the direction of continually improving our quality systems for us to improve our products and services.”  The challenge is there, and Sylvia seems only too keen to take it.

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