• Bigger budget for Pagasa must be made a reality

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    WITH climate change making storms stronger and more damaging, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) should have all the funding support it needs to be able to efficiently perform its function of forecasting weather events accurately.

    The good news is PAGASA’s budget for this year is up by 525 percent to P3.46 billion from the P396.5 million of last year.

    The weather bureau’s higher budget will allow it to purchase state-of-the-art equipment and hire more personnel.

    Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte made the announcement on Saturday to counter renewed criticisms against the government for its alleged failure to issue adequate warnings when Tropical Depression Seniang (international codename: Jangmi) bore down on the Visayas and Mindanao. At least 54 people were killed by floods and landslides triggered by the storm.

    “These developments show the willingness on our part to sit down and talk to our weather forecasters. We continue to invest in mechanisms that will help them make better tracks or make better predictions. Project NOAH [Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards] is also expanding, and you can see it in our hazard mapping,” Valte said.

    Aside from upgrading Pagasa, according to Valte, the government has also invested in improving the capabilities of rescuers and responders.

    Increasing the budget of Pagasa is definitely good news.

    But whether the funds will be released for Pagasa to use is something we still have to see.

    One of the most stupid and frustrating things about the Aquino administration is its big talk about stimulating the economy and providing adequate funds for vital projects but in the end not doing what should be done.

    Just 13 days ago, before Christmas Day, Moody’s released its Investors Service analysis of the Philippine economy. The analysis says domestic growth is being hamstrung by the Aquino administration’s weak use of its budget. Because the administration is not spending as much and as fast as it should, economic growth is constricted. And Philippine gross domestic product (GDP) likely grew by only 6.3 percent in 2014, which is below the government target of 6.5 to 7.5 percent.

    Among the opportunities that the administration did not take advantage of to spur economic growth is the reconstruction of areas that were badly hit by Super Typhoon Yolanda. This alone proves that the Aquino administration is motivated more by its political goals than doing the best for the people.

    After Yolanda hit the Philippines in November 2013, it was obvious that its impact would be deep and vast. But Moody’s points out that Philippine growth momentum in the first quarter of 2014 was adversely affected by the destruction caused by Yolanda. But the Aquino administration dilly-dallied on the reconstruction of the areas hard hit by the typhoon. The misery of the victims obviously means nothing to the President and his men.

    The Moody’s report says government consumption and public construction, which includes infrastructure development, fell by 1.6 percent year-on-year over the first three quarters of the year.

    Moody’s says the government’s real GDP growth target of 7 percent to 8 percent for 2015 will be difficult to achieve if budget releases and use are not improved.

    If the Aquino handles the Pagasa budget the way it handled the funds it had for the Yolanda rehabilitation, then the existence of a bigger budget would just be on paper and in the saliva of Valte.

    Other things to worry about
    Another matter we the people should also worry about is whether the Pagasa budget will be properly used.

    And then there’s the real thing beyond correct Pagasa forecasting, which is only one of the elements in handling disastrous typhoons.

    Today, more than a year after Yolanda/Haiyan, the Aquino administration is yet to show any visible or significant accomplishment in rebuilding areas damaged in Eastern Visayas, particularly Tacloban City.

    The latest failure of Aquino and his men, specially DILG Secretary Mar Roxas, is their dismal handling of Typhoon Seniang. Deaths, injuries and property damage in Mindanao and the Visayas hit by Seniang have been major tragedies.

    The Aquino people have treated with indifference and insensitivity the plight and suffering of Seniang’s victims– just as they cruelly treated previous victims of past calamities.

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