Weather forecasters look abroad as benefits withheld

report from Atom Araullo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 18 2012 12:27 AM | Updated as of Jul 18 2012 08:27 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Many PAGASA weather forecasters have not been receiving benefits prescribed by law. This is one of the reasons why some of them are now looking at opportunities abroad.

Forecasters at the state weather bureau are the country's first defense when devastating storms come knocking on Philippine shores.

But some, burdened with this enormous responsibilty, find it hard to simply go to work.

For 5 months, their benefits guaranteed by the Magna Carta for Scientists have been withheld by the government.

"Nakakaburyong talaga. Nitong nakaraang mga buwan, naghahanap ng pamasahe parang lang makapasok, umuutang kay mommy, minsan di na pumapasok pag wala talagang pera," said forecaster Jori Loiz.

Forecasters like Loiz have an average take home pay of P15,000. That's why they have come to rely on their benefits amounting to some P6,000 a month.

This is miniscule compared to the P200,000 average monthly salary of forecasters working abroad.

Despite the lure of greener pastures, Loiz still chooses to work in the Philippines. "Nage-enjoy naman kasi kami eh, iba yung feeling ng nagseserbisyo, at alam mong maraming nagtitiwala sa'yo."

Because of the challenging environment, the Philippine Weathermen Employees Association (PWEA) warned that more employees and specialists may choose to leave PAGASA in the future.

Three seasoned forecasters are already considering opportunities overseas.

"We cannot afford to lose these people, we are courting danger if we lose experienced personnel," said PWEA president Mon Agustin.

Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Secretary Mario Montejo has vowed to address the problem of employee benefits.

His department said that other government employees are facing the same difficulty, because of a change of procedure in the release of funds from the Department of Budget Management.

The DOST hopes that they will be able to distribute the benefits by August. - ANC