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Forecasting: Not only the Weather but the Future of Philippine Science

The Philippines is gets to experience more than 20 storms in 1 year. There are years, the names of storms outnumber the number of letters in the Filipino alphabet that is 25 since every storm gets named in alphabetical order.  This country is one of the most disaster prone countries in the world, geographically located along the typhoon belt and also in the Pacific Ring of Fire which is a seismically and volcanically active part of 2 continents.

As such, the Philippines would be in need of meteorologists and seismologists in order for it to have a viable and responsive disaster, risk reduction and management policy and plan. By nature, such technical expertise would require a national agency that will manage, plan and implement such policies and plans so as to prepare, mitigate and respond to disasters and calamities.

The Philippine Atmospheric , Geophysical and Astronomical Services (PAGASA), is one of the attached agencies of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) under its Scientific and Technical Services Institutes, is mandated to “provide protection against natural calamities and utilize scientific knowledge as an effective instrument to insure the safety, well being and economic security of all the people, and for the promotion of national progress.”  (Section 2, Statement of Policy, Presidential Decree No. 78; December 1972 as amended by Presidential Decree No. 1149; August 1977).

Thus, PAGASA is a highly technical agency of the government which is part of the first line of defense of this country and actually was initially under the Department of National Defense in 1972. Given this mandate, it Science and Technology personnel are supposed to be the cream of the crop in Philippine meteorology and seismology.

Losing Personnel

PAGASA has lost 33 of its experienced personnel in recent years. This “brain drain” affects the dependability of weather forecasting at this time of Climate Change wherein past weather and climate models have been severely disrupted.

The exodus of PAGASA Weather Specialists were due to offers from other countries, particularly Singapore, Australia and countries from the Middle East that require expertise and experience in weather forecasting and climate modelling. There are instances wherein the compensation package was a much as 7 times the local salary of PAGASA experts and that according to Sen. Ralph Recto, Senate Chairman of Science and Technology “We must recognize that Talent goes where the money is”.

Although the PAGASA Budget increased from Php767,481,000.00 in 2009 to 1,386,603,000.00 in 2014 and Personnel Services budgets rose from Php238,478,000.00 in 2011 to 466,581,000.00, the discrepancy between local and international payscales must be recognized.

PAGASA, although losing such personnel to foreign entities was able to replace those who left and maintained top scientific and technical positions wherein it has currently 7 PhD holders and 49 MS/MA degree holders. That means the knowledge and technical materials are still there. What has been lost is the “Experience” inside those who have left. There must be a balance between harking to nationalism and just compensation for the very few in the frontlines of watching over the country.




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