Palace stands by PAGASA chief's relief

By Caroline J. Howard, ANC

Posted at Aug 09 2010 12:47 PM | Updated as of Aug 11 2010 03:45 PM

MANILA, Philippines - President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino stands by his decision to sack Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) Chief Prisco Nilo as head of the weather bureau.
"There are fundamental differences between their approaches to the task at hand, and I support my Secretary's position on the matter, that there are irreconcilable differences. So if they are not of one, therefore, the services of PAGASA cannot be improved. Therefore, the secretary has been given the authority to look for that individual who they can work with better," President Aquino said.

Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Undersecretary Graciano Yumul, who's been designated Officer-in-Charge of PAGASA, said DOST Secretary Mario Montejo has placed Dr. Nilo under special study.
Yumul said there is no truth to reports PAGASA employees are demoralized following Nilo's relief, adding they were all professional.

"[DOST] Secretary Montejo gave us a list of things to do. Dr. Nilo will be placed under special study. Just because he was reassigned doesn't mean PAGASA will not be able to do its forecasting duties," Yumul said.

Yumul, who is not a meteorologist, said he has been tasked to handle management issues and improve the forecasting capability of PAGASA, adding a technical specialist will handle other aspects of PAGASA's operations. 

Yumul said PAGASA deputy director Nathanielsz Servando is being eyed to lead the technical side of operations.
Meantime, Agham party-list Representative Angelo Palmones clarified that contrary to earlier reports Nilo was relieved over inaccurate forecasts on Tropical Storm Basyang, Nilo's relief resulted from an internal issue within PAGASA involving questions on Nilo's Career Executive Service Officer (CESO) eligibility.
"This is an internal issue which the DOST has to resolve," Palmones said. "Dr. Nilo supposedly lacks CESO, that's why he's being relieved."
Palmones is appealing to government to reconsider its decision to relieve the beleaguered PAGASA chief, saying experience should be a priority over the CESO eligibility.
"If you were assigned there, there should be no question on your integrity and capacity to lead. Over the years, Dr. Nilo has shown good leadership," Palmones said.   

Palmones also called for the immediate resolution of the matter as it may affect the country's forecasting efforts.
"I am appealing to the government to reconsider its decision to relieve Dr. Nilo from PAGASA.  The weather bureau needs more warm bodies," Palmones said.

Citing the expected arrival of another tropical cyclone Florita this week, Palmones said the weather bureau should not focus its attention on intrigues hounding the weather bureau.
Palmones is now seeking the assistance of House Speaker Feliciano "Sonny" Belmonte to reinstate Nilo as chief of the weather bureau. 

With only three senior weather forecasters left in PAGASA, and the weather bureau already undermanned due to the exodus of forecasters for better paying jobs, Palmones said PAGASA may not be equipped enough to do its job.
"PAGASA has a very lean staff and is in need of experts as it is.  Only three senior forecasters are left.  And any organization short of manpower is bound to have problems with providing the necessary service."