Weathermen now pawning ATM cards to get by

Posted at 05/29/14 1:56 PM

MANILA - Cry rivers and floods, if you must.

The woes of the country’s weathermen continue, with some already resorting to pawning their ATM cards to pay for their kids’ tuition.

Jori Loiz, one of the senior weather forecasters at the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa), said their hazard pay is again delayed by six months.

He said some of his colleagues had to come up with alternative ways to cover their everyday needs, including pawning their ATM cards.

In 2012, Loiz revealed he sometimes cannot come to work because he had no money to pay for his bus fare from his home in Bulacan to the PAGASA office in Quezon City.

Even then, Loiz remained because of his love for the country. He had offers to go work abroad, but declined.

Today, the wind must have changed its course. Loiz said he is seriously considering following colleagues who recently resigned to work as specialists in Qatar.

"Mahirap tanggihan e, kasi kung titingnan mo sweldo mo dito malaking tanggal [kasi] may pinag-aaral ka. Paano pagkain mo araw-araw? Pamasahe mo? Hindi talaga kaya,” he said.

Of the P24,000 pay monthly, he and others only bring home P12,000 to P14,000 after taxes.

But since the rainy season is near and their services are most needed, the country’s weathermen have to work double time.

Usually, 4 to 5 weathermen cover one shift. With the resignations, however, 2 or three have to work extra hard in one shift.

“Naaapektuhan ang effiency talaga… Paano pag tag-ulan na? Kapag may bagyo, extend sa susunod na shift… Kapag nagtrabaho ako ng 16 hours, di na ako puwedeng magtrabaho ulit baka bumagsak na ko ‘nun,” he said.

He can only hope for a salary increase and timely payment of benefits.

The PAGASA union reported last week that three more members have left for greener pastures abroad.

Ramon Agustin, president of the Philippine Weathermen Employees Association, said the three were hired by the Qatar Bureau of Meteorology. He identified them as Bernie de Leon and Ralph Ricahuerta, who were hired as airport forecasters and engineer Ralph Soquila, who was hired as communications specialist.

Malacanang dismissed, however, that the brain drain is affecting the PAGASA workforce.

The exodus of Filipino weathermen to countries abroad is just a normal occurrence, Malacanang said.

Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. told radio dzRB, “like what the Department of Science and Technology said, it’s just a normal occurrence. It shows that our weathermen have good training and preparation that is why they get a lot of opportunities.”

He said the government continues to replenish the ranks of weathermen amid the exodus.

“The rank is not that thin. There are a lot of weathermen joining the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA).”

He said in the last three years, the government has put in place programs and scholarships to ensure that PAGASA will continue to draw meteorologists to its ranks. – with reports from Carolyn Bonquin, ABS-CBN News