MANILA, Philippines - The proposed budget of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) for next year has been slashed amid the high-profile exodus of weather forecasters for better paying jobs abroad.
According to the Congressional Policy and Budget Research Department (CPBRD), which is perusing the proposed P2.3-trillion national budget for 2014 submitted by Malacañang to the House of Representatives for approval, PAGASA was allotted P1.256 billion for next year.
This was a reduction of P206 million or 14.1 percent from this year’s appropriation for the frontline public agency when it comes to forecasting weather disturbances, warning of possible volcanic eruptions, and monitoring earthquakes.
The budget was attributed mainly to the 38 percent reduction in the agency’s allocation for capital outlay or purchase of equipment from P644 million to P397 million.
PAGASA’s personnel services budget was reduced by nearly one percent, “which may impact on the continuing brain drain in the agency,” the CPBRD warned.
However, the budget of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), which supervises PAGASA, was increased by 21 percent or from P10.1 billion to P12.214 billion
The bulk of the DOST’s budget, including its attached agencies was cornered by the Office of the Secretary, averaging more than 50 percent of the department’s total allocation since 2012.
There are about 55 meteorologists out of PAGASA’s 867-strong work force. The past few years saw the exodus of scores of veteran PAGASA workers, including at least two of its administrators, due to low pay and delays in the release of their benefits.
Weather forecaster Ricky Fabregas, who worked in PAGASA in the past 16 years, left for Congo where he would be earning around P100,000 a month, compared to the P20,000 monthly compensation he was receiving from PAGASA.
Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto earlier said the exodus of experienced weathermen should be taken seriously and addressed by the national government.
“At the rate weather forecasters are leaving the Philippine area of responsibility, we may end up with no one alarming us that a typhoon is coming,” Recto said.
Apart from the low salaries they receive, the weathermen were complaining about the delays in the release of benefits promised them under Republic Act 8439 or the Magna Carta for Science and Technology.
Recto said he was curious why there was such a complaint considering the current year’s national budget contains a provision on the Magna Carta for Science and Technology amounting to P183.7 million.
This is on top of the P51.8-million hazard pay also contained in the 2013 national budget that they are entitled to receive.