Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph G. Recto today thanked President Aquino for signing on November 3 the PAGASA Modernization Law, which is now officially Republic Act (RA) 10692.
“Maraming salamat po, Mr. President. Dahil sa pagpirma n’yo ng batas na ito, mapapalakas na natin ang PAGASA bilang isang sandata sa ating paghahanda sa bagyo at ibang kalamidad na dulot ng nagbabagong klima,” Recto, the bill’s principal sponsor, said.
Although copies of RA 10692 have not yet been officially transmitted to both houses of Congress, Recto said his office has been notified that the President has signed it.
In the Senate, those who filed PAGASA modernization-related measures were Senators Legarda, Escudero, Trillanes, Ejercito, Revilla, Villar, Marcos and Drilon.
The House version was pushed by Rep. Victor Yu, Chair of the Science and Technology Committee, and Reps. Teodoro, Abayon, Mercado-Revilla, Macapagal-Arroyo, Yap, Velarde, Piamonte, Eriguel, Fortun, Aumentado, Pernes, Abaya, Romulo, Co, Batocabe, Romualdo and Manalo.
Recto said Senate President Franklin Drilon, House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano, Senate Minority Leader Tito Sotto, House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzalez and House Minority Leader Ronaldo Zamora likewise pushed for the measure’s passage.
Recto said Aquino’s signing of the measure puts the weather bureau on a long-term track of modernization beginning with an initial authority to request and spend P3 billion for needed equipment upgrade and manpower training.
Recto said the proposed PAGASA Modernization Law will have seven modernization components: equipment and operational techniques, data center, information services, human resources, regional and field weather presence, research and global linkages.
The cost of immediately needed equipment and buildings is P3 billion, based on a “preliminary shopping list” PAGASA has submitted to the Senate.
To finance this, as well as the agency’s future needs, the Senate bill taps both budgetary and “off-budget” sources, Recto said.
Included in the latter is a proposed P3 billion from the gross income of PAGCOR, to be taken from the 50% share of the national government.
According to Recto, the modernization plan also addresses “personnel welfare issues” by providing funds for compensation adjustments, training and scholarships.
The bill prescribes “a personnel retention scheme” in order to prevent what Recto described as “the phenomenon of more and more PAGASA personnel leaving the Philippine Area of Responsibility or PAR yearly.”
Recto said investments in PAGASA are dwarfed by the “damages caused by typhoons in this climate change era when they’re coming in at unexpected places, unexpected strengths, and unexpected times.”
“‘Yang P3 billion, halimbawa, ay maliit kumpara sa P116 billion in combined damages to property and infrastructure ng apat na bagyo pa lang, ang Ondoy and Pepeng in 2009, Yolanda noong 2013 at Glenda noong isang taon,” Recto said.
Recto explained that the “vision is for PAGASA to go local”, and this would need deploying weather equipment in as many areas in the country as possible.
“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.
“Weather forecasting is like a traffic app. Lalung-lalo na sa Metro Manila, where the economic cost of vehicular traffic is already P2.4 billion on an uneventful day and possibly twice that amount on bad weather nights,” Recto said.
He said the enactment of the PAGASA bill was expedited by the House’s decision to just approve the Senate version, foreclosing any need to convene a Bicameral Conference Committee, and sending the bill to President Aquino’s desk for his signature.