MANILA – ABS-CBN News anchor Ted Failon and the Philippine Weathermen Employees Association (PWEA) on Wednesday cleared the air over Failon's comments on the storm surge incident in typhoon "Yolanda"-devastated Tacloban City that left a weather observer missing until now.
PWEA earlier said it took offense with Failon's comment in his Radio dzMM program on Tuesday that the PAGASA weathermen stationed in Tacloban did not seem to have fully understood the meaning of a storm surge since one of their own went missing at the height of the deluge.
"The PWEA honestly respects the opinion of Mr. Ted Failon aired early this morning that most PAGASA people are not aware of what a storm surge is. According to Mr. Failon, this is because one PAGASA personnel died as a victim of a storm surge herself," the PWEA said.
"However, we are deeply saddened by this comment. Please allow us to inform our kababayans that our colleague suffered the onslaught of Yolanda because she was on duty at the weather station. It is the general rule in PAGASA that personnel on duty should not leave or abandon their posts at all cost if a locality is under threat from a tropical cyclone. Our lady colleague died not in the comfort of her own home but rather died while in the service of our country."
Failon apologized to the PWEA, through its president Ramon Agustin.
He said the point he wanted to deliver is that there should be a wider public awareness on the threats storm surges pose.
"Ang aking sinabi, ultimo taga-PAGASA ay na-biktima ng storm surge sa kasagsagan ng Yolanda. Sa aking pananaw nung aking tinatalakay ang isyu na ito, is that ultimo ang taga-PAGASA hindi po alam kung gano kalaki ang panganib na paparating na hatid ng super typhoon na ito… Bagamat siyempre ating ginagalang din ang katapatan sa tungkulin ng mga taga-PAGASA na hindi inaabandona ang kanilang mga post," Failon said in his radio program "Failon Ngayon."
"Kung saka-sakali po na hindi ho sa tamang konteksto ang pagtanggap ng iba sa mga miyembro niyo o ibang kababayan natin sa aking naging pahayag, ako ay humihingi ng paumanhin. Kasi naiintindihan ko na maraming tao rin ang sensitive sa mga issues ngayon at talagang kailangan ng pag-iingat sa ating mga binabanggit kaya ngayon pa lang akin na pong nililiwanag na ang konteksto ng aking pahayag kahapon, ay no offense lalo na sa pamilya ng namatayan," Failon told Agustin.
Failon, however, said he never mentioned that the PAGASA staffer, 40-year-old Salvacion "Salve" Avestruz, died in her house.
Agustin, meanwhile, said PAGASA employees have given up hope that Avestruz is still alive.
Citing the accounts of PAGASA Tacloban station chief Mario Peñaranda, Agustin said Avestruz tried to save the bureau's microbarograph even though a huge wave was about to swallow the station when Yolanda slammed into central Philippines last November 8.
He said PAGASA field personnel are obliged to perform weather observation every hour for transmission to the weather forecasting center as this is very important in the tracking of typhoons.
"Sad to say after nang huling kaway ni kasamang Mario, hindi na nila nakita si Salvacion. Ang sabi ni Mario, 'yung tubig ay umabot na sa ceiling. Nakakapit lang siya sa antenna ng tower ng isang PAGASA equipment at nasagip niya yung dalawaang kalalakihang kasama namin na sina Romy Elvina at Apolinario Paulinas," Agustin said.
Agustin said PAGASA weathermen and employees have launched a fund drive for Avestruz, a native of Catarman, Northern Samar.
"Kay Ms. Avestruz dahil siya ay hindi pa makita, although we have given up hopes na siya ay buhay pa, talagang tinatanggap na naming, magkakaroon siya ng sapat na tulong," he said.
Better storm surge warnings
Meanwhile, Agustin said PAGASA has formed a group composed of journalists and weathermen who will help improve storm surge warnings issued by the state weather bureau.
He said the body will determine possible changes in the terms used to describe storm surges and other details in PAGASA weather reports. This is amid proposals from Failon and other groups that PAGASA warnings should be translated to more understandable language per region.
"We have been trying to improve the storm surge warning and we are doing it for the safety of the public," he said.