Aquino urged to reconsider sacking of PAGASA chief

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 09 2010 09:39 AM | Updated as of Aug 09 2010 06:34 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Agham party-list congressman Angelo Palmones on Monday urged President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III to reconsider his decision to remove Dr. Prisco Nilo as administrator of Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA).

In an interview, Palmones said Nilo's relief is ill-timed especially with the start of typhoon season in the country.

"We are appealing to President Aquino to reconsider his decision to remove Nilo. PAGASA needs more warm bodies. (Another storm) Florita is coming this week so we don't need all these intrigues. We have to make sure that our country is safe from these disasters," he told ABS-CBN's "Umagang Kay Ganda."

President Aquino on Friday announced Nilo’s removal from his post. He was replaced by Undersecretary Graciano Yumul, who will remain PAGASA officer in charge (OIC) for 3 months. Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda later said Nilo's removal is part of the Chief Executive’s plan to “reorient” PAGASA so that it would be more reliable in its weather forecasts.

Palmones denied reports that Nilo was removed because of PAGASA’s failure to accurately  forecast that Typhoon Basyang (international name Conson) would hit Metro Manila last July 13. He said Nilo told him that he was removed because of lack of CESO eligibility.

The party-list congressman, however, said lack of CESO eligibility should not be the sole reason to remove government administrators who are qualified for their jobs.

"Experience should be a priority. I sat as member of PAGASA search committee and the hardest thing to do is find someone qualified to head the agency. We saw over the years that Nilo gave quality leadership. The problem is there are internal issues that must be addressed, which is why Secretary Montejo had to step in," he said.

He pointed out that PAGASA now has only 3 remaining senior weather forecasters -- Robert Sawi, Rene Paciente and Mario Palafox -- who work overtime when typhoons hit the country. "We should really answer that problem when it comes to lack of manpower," he said.

For his part, former PAGASA deputy director Nathaniel Cruz noted that despite the lack of sophisticated equipment, local weather forecasters are not lacking in qualifications.

Yumul, meanwhile, said his task as PAGASA OIC is to handle the management side of the weather bureau. He said PAGASA Deputy Director Nathaniel Servando will handle the forecasting side.

He said Science Secretary Mario Montejo gave him marching orders to finish upgrades to PAGASA's equioment in 3 months' time.

The whole PAGASA modernization plan for 2005 to 2010 costs P4 billion.