Govt must release P3 billion for Pagasa modernization

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THE government must start preparing for the La Nina or wet spell by providing more funds for the modernization of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), a lawmaker said on Sunday.

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Senate President pro-tempore Ralph Recto said if El Nino caused drought in some areas of the country, La Nina is expected to bring in heavy rains and the public will be needing accurate and frequent warnings on the weather from PAGASA.

Recto said to further improve the capability of the weather bureau, the government must immediately release funds for its equipment upgrade pursuant to a law modernizing the weather agency.

He said an initial P3 billion for new weather forecasting facilities for the weather bureau has been authorized under the PAGASA Modernization Act that President Benigno Aquino 3rd signed into law on November 3, 2015 as Republic Act 10692.

Recto, the principle author of the law, noted PAGASA actually incurred a budget cut this year, from P3.44 billion in 2015 to P1.21 billion for 2016. The weather bureau’s capital outlay budget for buildings and equipment incurred the biggest cut from P2.47 billion to P344 million.

“That’s a P2.1-billion reduction. It can, however, be recouped if the P3 billion for new equipment under the PAGASA Modernization Act will be made available to them,” Recto explained.

For this year, PAGASA has only P4.2 million for the installation, repair and maintenance of multiplex system for flood forecasting and warning system in 18 major river basins.

In its performance pledge in the 2016 budget, PAGASA guarantees “a 100-percent accurate and robust science-based” weather related information and services in “28 vulnerable provinces.”

Recto said the PAGASA Modernization Law lists the programs that must be funded so it can deliver reliable, timely and localized weather forecast.

“We want a weather bureau to tell us when and where it would rain, so that the man behind the carabao in Mindoro will know when to plow the field and the man behind the wheel in Malabon will know when to plod through flooded streets,” Recto said.

The PAGASA Modernization Act centers on the following modernization components: equipment and operational techniques; data center; information services; human resources; regional and field weather presence; research; and global linkages.

JEFFERSON ANTIPORDA

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