Alarm raised over exodus of RP weathermen

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 22 2010 11:25 AM | Updated as of Jul 22 2010 08:27 PM

Ex-PAGASA deputy Nathaniel Cruz leaves for Australia

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MANILA, Philippines - More weather forecasters from the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration are leaving the country for higher-paying jobs abroad, a PAGASA officer said Thursday.

PAGASA Deputy Administrator Nathaniel Servando said about 24 of the top weather forecasters and engineers have left PAGASA in the past 6-10 years for higher-paying jobs in Macau, Canada and the Middle East. The latest to leave is PAGASA deputy administrator Nathaniel Cruz who got a job in Australia.

"What they are doing now in their new jobs is basically the same as what they were doing in PAGASA. They just want to enhance their knowledge and grab the opportunity to go abroad. The salary is also a big attraction," he said in an ABS-CBN "Umagang Kay Ganda" interview.

Servando said in the case of Nathaniel Cruz, the former deputy administrator was earning a little over P37,000 plus perks and allowances when he left PAGASA.

He added that the weather bureau's forecasting operations have not been affected by the exodus after they hired more technical staff for weather forecasting.

Agham party-list Rep. Angelo Palmones said Philippine weathermen are offered big salaries by foreign meteorological agencies because of their expertise. He said some PAGASA officers even undergo further study and earn their masters and PHDs.

"Magagaling kasi. We have 21 typhoons passing through the Philippines every year, of which 6 are very severe. Hasang-hasa sila (Their skills are really sharpened)," he said.

To stop the exodus of weathermen, Palmones said he has filed a resolution requesting for a 150% increase in salaries of PAGASA weather forecasters plus exemption from the Salary Standardization Law for 5-6 years. He said Sen. Teofisto Guingona III will file a counterpart bill in the Senate.

Palmones urged the Philippine government to upgrade the technical and communication capabilities of PAGASA so that it can deliver more up-to-date weather forecasts to the public.

President Benigno Aquino III earlier scolded PAGASA for failing to warn the public that tropical storm Basyang (international codename Conson) had changed course and would hit Metro Manila. The storm killed 79 people and damaged infrastructure and agriculture.

"The President has already said that he will upgrade the technical aspect of PAGASA but it is really the communication part that needs work. The entry of information is too slow. If we just fix the communications, 50% of the problem will be fixed," Palmones said.