The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) came so close to modernization, if not for the resignation of Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and the unresolved proposal to split Camarines Sur, it was learned on Thursday.
Rep. Angelo Palmones of Alyansa ng mga Grupong Haligi ng Agham at Teknolohiya para sa Mamamayan or Agham party-list made the disclosure a day after Pagasa chief Nathaniel Servando quit his post for greener pastures in Qatar.
The Pagasa Modernization bill, which only needed a ratification of the Senate and signature of President Benigno Aquino 3rd to become a law, would have availed Pagasa of a three-year modernization program, which would upgrade Pagasa’s physical resources and operational techniques.
“The Pagasa Modernization bill was listed as a priority measure by the President and the Legislative branch. The Senate adopted the House version in toto, so they just have to ratify it and have it sent to the President for signature. Problem is, JPE resigned [as Senate President]and unfortunately, the Senate didn’t have enough bodies to approve it after that,” Palmones said in a phone interview, referring to Enrile.
Enrile quit his post during the last session day, saying that he had enough of criticisms over his decision to distribute the Senate savings among Senators last Christmas which was a legal move in the first place.
During the roll call on June 5, the last session day of the 15th Congress, 17 senators responded to the roll call before Enrile announced his resignation in a privileged speech. They were Senators Enrile, Edgardo Angara, Joker Arroyo, Alan Peter Cayetano, Pia Cayetano, Frank Drilon, Jinggoy Estrada, Teofisto Guingona 3rd, Gregorio Honasan, Loren Legarda, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Serge Osmeña 3rd, Francis Pangilinan, Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel 3rd, Antonio Trillanes 4th, Vicente Sotto 3rd and Manuel Villar Jr.
Enrile’s resignation prompted the senators to convene for a caucus, in which they agreed to name Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada as Acting Senate President in accordance to Senate Rules.
At that time, Sotto said that Sen. Franklin Drilon would have wrested the Senate presidency, but the majority bloc didn’t have the numbers because there were only 14 Senators present during the caucus. Of these 14, two Senators won’t vote for Drilon, namely Sotto and Honasan who are known supporters of Enrile.
After the leadership change, Senate Majority Leader Sotto made a motion to adopt House Bill (HB) 4820—he measure which will split the Camarines Sur and create another province named Nueva Camarines—and have it approved on third reading.
Sen. Joker Arroyo opposed the consideration of HB 4820, saying that dividing the 970,000-strong Camarines Sur would result in the dismemberment of a province. Senator Marcos suggested that such bill be shelved, as prolonged discussions on the said bill could hamper approval of other bills considering that it is already the last session day.
After the shelving of the Nueva Camarines bill, only 12 senators remained present or one short of a quorum. They were able to approve the 10 measures on third reading, but it didn’t include the Pagasa modernization bill.
The 10 included: Camotes Islands Natural Resources Management Act of 2011, Price Act, Food Safety Act of 2011, Toy and Game Safety Labeling Act, Integrated Protected Areas Fund, Local Absentee Voting for Party-List Representative, Anti-Bullying Act of 2012, Protection of Students’ Right to Enroll in Review Centers Act of 2010, Board of Regents of the Partido State University, Rural Farm Schools Act and Medical Center in Dagupan City, Pangasinan.
“The Pagasa bill was calendared number 22 in the order of business, and Nueva Camarines was listed number 23. These two were so close that if you approve the Pagasa bill, there will be an issue as to why the Nueva Camarines was not discussed,” Palmones pointed out.
House Majority Leader Sotto then suspended the consideration of bills for third reading to give way to the farewell speeches of outgoing Senators namely Villar and Angara. After their speeches, the Senate, still with 12 members, was able to ratify the Juvenile Justice Bill, which made children under 15 criminally liable before the session was suspended at 6:30 p.m.
“Senator Angara made a motion for its [Pagasa bill’s] approval, but there was no quorum [after the caucus]so it was not approved. I hope they file it again in the 16th Congress because it means well for Pagasa,” Palmones, who lost in the last May polls, added.
The session resumed the next day, but the Pagasa bill still didn’t make it.