Pagasa modernization bill up for signing
Marvin Sy (The Philippine Star) - August 27, 2015 - 10:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The proposed PAGASA Modernization Act is ready for signing by President Aquino after the House of Representatives agreed to adopt the Senate version of the bill.

Senate Bill 2384 provides the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration with an initial P3.9-billion budget.

“We want a modern PAGASA that can warn us about typhoons and weather disturbances coming our way, and which has a working environment which prevents forecasters from leaving the Philippine area of responsibility,” Sen. Ralph Recto, author of the measure, said yesterday.

Recto said that there are seven components to the modernization program of PAGASA under the bill, including the acquisition of world-class weather forecasting equipment.

He said the PAGASA modernization fund is minimal compared to the P172 billion in damage to agriculture, property and infrastructure brought about by Typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng in 2009, Yolanda in 2013 and Glenda last year.

Apart from upgrading of PAGASA’s equipment, the modernization program would enhance the research and development capabilities of the agency. A PAGASA data center will be established to centralize technical outputs in a databank.

“The benefits of Doppler radars must be replicated. This requires expanding its network of weather data capturing stations,” Recto said.

He said cooperation and joint venture programs of PAGASA, both domestic and international, should also be enhanced.

“Local non-government weather outfits, if tapped, are effective force extenders. Tapping this network and harvesting their data will cut both time and expenses,” he said.

Exodus

The measure also aims to address the exodus of PAGASA personnel to higher-paying jobs abroad.

Recto said PAGASA would create a pay scale for its employees, as authorized by the Magna Carta for Science and Technology personnel, which was enacted 17 years ago.

“We must stop this exodus of talent while we train and develop more of them,” he said.

He said P45 million would be allotted annually for compensation adjustments and P70 million for training and scholarships of PAGASA employees.

Recto said there is a proposal to allocate P3 billion from the net income of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp., to be taken from the 50 percent share of the national government, to augment the budget for training and scholarships.

“To ensure that this law will not end up as yet another unfunded mandate, the annual cost of modernization shall be included in the General Appropriations Act,” Recto said.

“Whatever the amount, I am confident that investments in PAGASA will dwarf the damage caused by typhoons in this climate change era when they’re coming in from unexpected places, with unexpected strengths and at unexpected times,” he added.

Disaster preparedness

In Santa, Ilocos Sur, Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas urged governors and mayors in the Ilocos region to continue improving their disaster preparedness.

“We must be prepared because we don’t know how many habagats will come,” Roxas said.

He cited the need for elevated evacuation areas and training for residents on what to do in case of disasters.

Roxas visited Santa town on Wednesday to inspect the damage wrought by Typhoon Ineng. Ineng affected a total of 36,052 families in Ilocos Sur.

Roxas vowed to be the “postman” for Ilocanos to ensure their concerns and suggestions for the improvement of the region will reach President Aquino, Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson and Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman.

Roxas, who was accompanied by presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda, attended a Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council meeting at the Santa Municipal Hall. – With Cecille Suerte Felipe

ACIRC EDWIN LACIERDA GENERAL APPROPRIATIONS ACT HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES ILOCOS SUR IN SANTA INTERIOR AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT SECRETARY MAR ROXAS MAGNA CARTA PAGASA PRESIDENT AQUINO ROXAS
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