MANILA , JUNE 24, 2013
(PHILSTAR) By Louis Bacani - President Benigno Aquino III on Thursday dismissed reports that there is a mass exodus of weather forecasters from the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA).

Aquino said based on the report of Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Secretary Mario Montejo, only five forecasters left the agency, including former PAGASA chief Nathaniel Servando.

The former state weather head's official resignation was announced yesterday. He accepted a teaching job in the Middle East, having the need for a higher salary to finance his children’s college education. Related story: PAGASA chief resigns

The President said three left PAGASA under his watch, including former PAGASA administrator Prisco Nilo, who was relieved from his post supposedly for errors in a forecast for Typhoon Basyang in 2010.

It was previously reported that at least 22 weather forecasters quit their jobs at PAGASA from 2005 to 2011 for better paying jobs abroad. Related story: Weathermen stage protest

Aquino said the DOST has also hired 37 new meteorologists and more are expected, since there are already schools that offer meteorology as a college course.

"This is the biggest number of hires that ever happened with PAGASA," said Aquino, assuring that there is no lack of manpower in the agency.

"Continuous 'yung training ng PAGASA. So umalis iyong lima, pumalit 37, may sampung nakahintay pa, eh huwag naman natin siguro sabihin sa taumbayan na mawawalan tayo ng dunong para alamin ang mangyayari sa kalagayan ng panahon," the President said.

Meanwhile, PAGASA weathermen are appealing for the annual appropriation of their benefits to ensure sustained and timely release of funding.

"Funding for such purpose must be included in the General Appropriations Act - government's annual budget - instead of being sourced from savings our agency might make," said Mon Agustin, head of the Philippine Weathermen Employees Association of technical and non-technical personnel at PAGASA.

Agustin noted that the release of their benefits was delayed again this year, affecting their finances.

"Our hazard and longevity benefits haven't been given since January this year," he said.

Aquino said he will have it checked if the PAGASA employees' benefits have been released. Last year, PAGASA weathermen protested the non-payment of their benefits, which prompted Malacanang to intervene.

Agustin fears the brain drain at PAGASA will worsen if state weathermen fail to receive their benefits.

"Our weathermen will first think twice about leaving if the benefits' release is sustained," he said.


Departure of PAGASA execs a sign of brain drain? June 13, 2013 1:30pm


Philippine Weathermen Employees Association head Mon Agustin said even the head of PAGASA, Dr. Nathaniel Servando, is on indefinite leave.

The report said Servando cited health reasons when he left the Philippines in February.

However, the report alleged that Servando has landed a job abroad, teaching in a meteorology school in Qatar.

Agustin claimed that Servando is currently earning seven times his salary in the Philippines while teaching in Qatar.

“Definitely hindi niya kukunin 'yun kung talagang hindi maganda ang offer. Na talaga namang masesecure ang kanyang family. He would not, siyempre [hindi basta basta] tatalikuran being the head of the agency and isang very crucial agency sa bansa ang weather bureau, ang PAGASA,” Agustin said.

A report of radio dzBB's Allan Gatus also quoted Agustin as saying Servando is working as a professor and lecturer at Qatar University.

Agustin also said Servando had thrown a despedida (going-away) party before he went on leave.

Agustin noted that most PAGASA officials who go on long leaves tend to part ways with the agency although some still return.

In a separate dzBB report on Thursday, Agustin said Servando may not be the last to leave the Philippine weather bureau due to much higher offers abroad.

Weather forecasters in demand

According to Segovia's report, Singapore and Australia are two of the locations where the skills of our weather forecasters are in demand.

Agustin noted that at least 20 employees have resigned and migrated abroad for overseas jobs in the past 10 years.

He said, at first, only technical people such as weather observers left the agency.

However, this was followed by resignations from weather forecasters and now top officials of PAGASA, Agustin said.

“Yung brain drain kasi yung kung sa quality wise and sa quantity wise, quantity wise may napalit na pero yung quality wise ay siguro diyan natin mararamdaman yan [brain drain], he explained.

Low salary

Meanwhile, PAGASA Weather Specialist Jori Loiz, who has been with the agency for 17 years, admits there were times he considered working abroad.

He earns an amount below P30,000 which he said was not enough to sustain his family.

“Di naman po ako hipokrito na kunyari [hindi magaabroad]. Pagka may open, may opportunity at qualified ka naman. Why not diba?” Loiz asked, adding “Siyempre para sa family mo gusto mo bigyan ng magandang kinabukasan.”

The report said although PAGASA can quickly replace job vacancies, the departure of veteran weather forecasters is still a big loss considering their irreplaceable experience in the field. - Andrei Medina, VVP, GMA News

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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