To avert a brain drain from the continuous migration of meteorologists, forecasters and even air traffic controllers to other countries, the Senate has vowed to speed up the passage of measures that will provide bigger incentives to technical workers.
Sen. Ralph Recto noted that two pending bills could effectively address the concerns of science and technology personnel in the Philippines and prevent their exodus, and both were to be introduced in plenary in three months.
“We will have these bills ready in two to three months, and since the measure is not that complicated we expect it passed this year,” Recto said after the Senate science and technology hearing on Tuesday.
The senator was referring to Senate Bill 1358 that pegs the hazard allowance of science and technology personnel to 30 percent of their monthly basic salary.
The bill also proposes to expand the coverage of workplaces considered as hazardous to those on land, air and seas, those vulnerable to natural hazards and those that are difficult or distressed or hardship posts.
Another bill seeks to modernize the Department of Science and Technology’s (DOST) Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) and allow it to receive funding from other sources including Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp., local and foreign donors and budgetary surplus.
Recto is also considering the provision of other types of benefits to science and technology personnel.
Pagasa currently has 866 personnel and it needs additional 150 more for the agency to provide better services to the public.
Director Vicente Malano, Pagasa’s officer in charge, told the Senate committee on science and technology that 32 employees, mostly weather forecasters, have left the agency since 2005 for more rewarding job opportunities abroad.
Senate President Franklin Drilon called on his colleagues to fast-track passage of the bills “to convince our meteorologists and forecasters to stay and continue serving the country.”
“This bill aims to augment the financial rewards of working in Pagasa, in order to boost the productivity of current personnel and likewise attract newcomers to join the agency,” Drilon explained.
Sen. Bam Aquino said air-traffic controllers (ATCs) are also leaving the country for lack of benefits, ideal working conditions and job security.
According to Aquino, some Filipino ATCs have left for greener pastures abroad while others plan to join them if their working situation does not improve in the near future.
He warned that the exodus of ATCs would slow down the operation of airports and dampen the country’s tourism, which has been steadily growing in the past years.
According to documents submitted to the senator by concerned employees of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, about 195 of the country’s 500 air-traffic controllers hired by CAAP from the Civil Aviation Training Center (CATC) are on job-order status.
“Since the CAAP was created last 2008, no CATC graduate has been issued an appointment and not one became a regular employee,” Aquino said.
The lack of job security has forced five experienced ATCs to leave the country for better jobs abroad, leaving other ATCs with additional workload and longer working hours.