MANILA, Philippines – Scientists from state weather bureau PAGASA hit out at criticism over its takeover of the Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards (Project NOAH), the government’s flagship disaster initiative.
In a press conference on Tuesday, February 14, Philippine Weathermen Employees Association President Ramon Agustin said that they have been hearing negative comments questioning the credibility of PAGASA and its scientists in taking over Project NOAH, which is due to end on February 28.
“We decry the malicious act of this group that is sowing unwarranted intrigues questioning the competence of PAGASA as a warning agency. We view this as an apparent attempt to discredit PAGASA only to justify the extension of the project,” Agustin said.
This, according to Agustin, has caused resentment and demoralization among the employees and resulted to “unwanted work slowdown” in their service.
On January 30, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) announced that PAGASA will be taking over the project, after Mahar Lagmay, the executive director of Project NOAH, announced in a radio interview that the program will be scrapped due to “lack of funds.” (READ: Project NOAH ‘not just about the technology’ – Lagmay)
PAGASA Administrator Vicente Malano reiterated the DOST’s statement that NOAH is a project which has a start and end date.
He also said that Project NOAH’s role is to “capacitate” other government agencies. (READ: How does Project NOAH contribute to PH’s disaster management?)
“Actually po ‘yung mga data na dinidisplay ng NOAH, karamihan po doon, sa PAGASA galing… So dini-display lang nila kung ano ‘yung output ng PAGASA. At ‘yung sinasabi natin na walang kakayahan ang PAGASA ay hindi po totoo iyan, dahil noong araw pa nga lang ay ginagawa na ng PAGASA iyon – flood modelling, flood forecasting. Ang ginagawa ng NOAH is enhancing what PAGASA is doing,” Malano said.
(Actually, the data that Project NOAH is displaying, most of them came from PAGASA. They are just displaying the output of PAGASA. And with regard to the claims that PAGASA does not have the capability, that is not true because we have already been doing what PAGASA is doing – flood modelling, flood forecasting. What NOAH does is enhancing what PAGASA is doing.)
Agustin also pointed out that the weather bureau has been recognized for its performance.
“Very recently, PAGASA received various awards… We are consistent number 4 out of 71 government agencies in the country. That is the proof that we are very efficient with our service,” he said.
Malano also assured the public that PAGASA has enough budget to maintain the technologies developed by Project NOAH.
“Actually, noong bago pa lang lumabas ‘yung usapin ng Project NOAH ay pino-programa na, under the modernization program to sustain the project. Kasi ang instrumento nga naman may buhay yan… Kasama sa programa na kung ano na ‘yung hindi gumagana ay pagaganahin natin. Sapat po [ang pondo],” Malano said.
(Actually, even before this issue, we have already included this in our modernization program, to sustain the project. Of course, an instrument also has a ‘life span.” The modernization program includes fixing Project NOAH instruments that are not working. The budget is enough.)
The PAGASA Modernization Act of 2015 ordered the upgrading of PAGASA equipment and better incentives for its weather forecasters.
Not everyone can be absorbed
Malano said that employees, researchers, and scientists of Project NOAH are welcome to apply to PAGASA, but not everyone can be accommodated.
“Welcome naman sa amin kung sino yung gustong mag-apply, pero it will go through screening. Kung sino yung qualified,” Malano said. (Those who want to apply to PAGASA are welcome. But not everyone will be accommodated. Only those who are qualified..)
“Hindi po siguro lahat ma-a-absorb. At ang sinasabi nga ng taga University of the Philippines, hindi natin alam kung kaya silang mabayaran lahat. Meron kasing [salary] standardization ang gobyerno,” he added. (Not everyone will be absorbed. And just like what the University of the Philippines has said, we don’t know if we will be able to pay them. Our government follows a salary standardization.)
According to Malano, at least 15 to 20 personnel of Project NOAH can be accommodated by the agency. They are also in need of at least 500 personnel which they aim to complete by this year, Malano said.
Agustin said the criticism that the weather bureau has been receiving may be part of a political agenda.
“The group claims through the media that PAGASA and its people lacked the capability to provide accurate and timely weather forecasts,” Agustin said.
“Nakita mo naman sa [social media] posts nila na ‘Take over PAGASA’. Meron silang gusto na i-take over ang PAGASA, na may tao na gustong ipalit sa leadership. There is a campaign siguro, merong agendang ganon, hindi sila gagawa ng ganyan.”
(You’ve seen posts that they want to take over PAGASA. They want someone to take over PAGASA, they want somebody to takeover the leadership. There probably is a campaign. There is an agenda. If there’s none, they won’t be doing that.)
Agustin said they were initially planning to make a protest, but Malano requested not to do so.
“Sa hanay po namin dito sa PAGASA, wala kaming binabalak sa mga tao na harsh actions. Originally, we were planning to make a rally, however, dahil sa respeto namin sa aming pangulo ay inatras namin ang aming binabalak. We will try to reach out na lang with these people,” Agustin said.
(From our end, we are not planning any harsh actions against them. Originally we were planning to hold a rally, however because of our respect for our Administrator, we postponed it. We will try to reach out to these people instead.)
The transition of Project NOAH will start in a month, according to Malano. – Rappler.com
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