Exodus of weathermen alarms PH gov't

Posted at 05/21/2014 6:14 PM

MANILA - As the country approaches the wet season, a Palace official can only reiterate the administration's concern over the brain drain at the PAGASA weather bureau.

Weather forecasters Bernie De Leon and Ralph Ricahuerta, and communications engineer Ralph Suquila resigned last Sunday to work at the Qatar Bureau of Meteorology.

Earlier reports said the weathermen have yet to receive their hazard pay six months after PAGASA promised the benefits.

Their longevity pay and subsistence allowance, meanwhile, are also expected to be given only in June.

Ramon Agustin, president of the Philippine Weathermen Employees, earlier said 4 more weathermen are being offered jobs in the Middle East but have so far refused to take the offers.

Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said the government is trying to address the concerns.

"We are continuously looking into it kasi it's a concern for us. We have very good weather forecasters. But certainly we would like to address all their concerns, but we have a law to follow, and that's the reason why we are looking into how do we try to address the concerns within the bounds of the law. But we will certainly ask the DBM [Department of Budget and Management] as to whether this issue on hazard pay, as to who is covered by the hazard pay, has been resolved," he said.

Lacierda said the DBM has already addressed some of the concerns of PAGASA employees.

He said not all the employees of PAGASA are entitled to hazard pay.

"When you're confronted only, when you're faced with calamities, then you should be entitled to hazard pay. That's not an issue. But who are the people involved in hazard pay? Who are the ones claiming? That was a primary issue then and, perhaps, we will ask the DBM if that issue has already been settled as to who is covered by the hazard pay."

PAGASA has been beset by resignations as weather forecasters complain of small salaries as well as delayed release of benefits and allowances.

In the past 10 years, Agustin said over 20 veteran weather forecasters have left the agency and decided to work either in the Middle East or Australia where they are offered higher salaries.

Nathaniel Servando, PAGASA's former administrator, also quit his job in June last year.