Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Drilon: Competitive compensation for weathermen key to modernizing PAGASA

MANILA-Concerned about a number of meteorologists and forecasters leaving the nation’s main weather bureau and to avert a possible brain drain, Senate President Franklin M. Drilon today filed Senate Bill No. 2265 that will increase the salary and benefits of personnel of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) and modernize its equipment and facilities.

The Senate leader urged his colleagues to fast-track the passage of SBN 2265, along with other pending bills on PAGASA modernization, “in order 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,” explained Drilon.

“The government has to prevent this brain drain of our meteorological services by addressing the plights and woes of their personnel regarding adequate compensation. We do not want to arrive at the situation where Filipino weather experts will say ‘Walang pag-asa sa PAGASA’ (There is no hope in PAGASA),” stressed Drilon.

Director Vicente Malano, PAGASA’s officer in charge, revealed before the Senate Committee on Science and Technology’s hearing today on the proposed PAGASA Modernization Act, that a total of 32 personnel, mostly weather forecasters, have already left the agency since 2005 for a more rewarding job opportunities abroad.

“I call on my colleagues in the Senate to prioritize this bill, for it is high time that we take bolder steps towards the modernization of PAGASA to effectively manage weather and geological related risks, minimize the vulnerability of people and investments, and boost the resilience of institutions and communities,” said Drilon.

At the House of Representatives, its counterpart bill, House Bill 4397, was approved on third and final reading last week.

Under the SBN 2265, it tasked the Department of Science and Technology and the administrator of PAGASA, in coordination with the Department of Budget and Management and the National Economic and Development Authority to formulate the modernization program for the PAGASA.

According to the bill, there shall be a three-year program for the modernization of the PAGASA that will focus on human resource development, which means training and scholarship for undergraduate and graduate degrees in Meteorology, new salary scale consistent with the Magna Carta for Scientist, Engineers, Researchers and other Science and Technology Personnel in Government.

The amount necessary to carry out the implementation of the Act shall be initially charged against the current fiscal year appropriations of the DOST-PAGASA, the bill says.

Senate S&T panel hears measures on free internet access, PAGASA modernization

MANILA-The Senate Committee on Science and Technology today opened deliberations on key proposed measures aimed at improving the science and technology (S&T) sector, broadening internet access and upgrading state weather bureau PAGASA.

The proposed measures under committee consideration are:

Senate Bill 1358 - Hazard Allowance for all S&T Personnel in the Gov’t;
Senate Bill 539 - Science Laboratory for Basic Education Act of 2013; Senate Bill 2124 - ICT Education Act of 2014;
Senate Bill 2232 -Free Metro Manila WiFi Act of 2014; and,
Senate Bills 10, 158, 842, 955, 1160, 1937, 2097, 2265 and House Bill 4397 - PAGASA Modernization Act

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said SB 1358 seeks to increase the benefits of all S&T personnel working in government.

He said the bill proposes to maximize to 30 percent from 10 percent the mandated hazard allowance of state scientists, engineers, researchers and other S&T experts as provided under Republic Act (RA) 8439 or the Magna Carta for Scientists, Engineers, Researchers, and other S&T Personnel in Government.

Senate Bill 539, authored by Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, will make science laboratory infrastructure in all elementary and secondary education as an intrinsic part of learning, where government is called to invest in it through modern laboratory facilities.

Recto said SB 2124 and SB 2232, on the other hand, complement each other since this would mandate the state to ensure access of public students to computer and internet education while the second measure provides for free internet access in all public places in the National Capital Region.

“These twin measures highlight the importance of ensuring broader access to computer-based learning and internet to bridge the digital divide,” he said.

The Senate leader said his committee is also taking action on several measures seeking to modernize the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) and, perhaps restore “hope” for the beleaguered weather agency.

The PAGASA bills were filed by Sens. Loren Legarda, Antonio Trillanes IV, JV Ejercito, Ramon "Bong" Revilla, Cynthia Villar, Francis Escudero, Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Franklin Drilon.

“The PAGASA bills, when enacted into law, should result to a more modern PAGASA that has state-of-the-art equipment that are manned by happy personnel who will shun the allure of foreign employment,” Recto said.

Recto said the proposed measures should be out in the plenary soon after the respective committee reports for the bills are prepared and signed by panel members.

DARFO III – 7ID MOU Signing for Fort Mag Livelihood

FORT RAMON MAGSAYSAY, Nueva Ecija – The 7th Infantry (KAUGNAY) Division signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) known as “7ID-DARFO III Memorandum of Understanding” with the Department of Agriculture Regional Field Office III (DARFO) regarding the utilization of Fort Magsaysay Reservation for livelihood projects this May 27, Tuesday, 10 am, at the Kaugnay Officers’ Clubhouse, Fort Magsaysay.

In line with the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the DA and the Department of National Defense – Armed Forces of the Philippines (DND-AFP) signed last May 2, 2013 regarding the utilization of Military Reservation in the country for livelihood projects, the 7ID, representing the DND-AFP would take an initiative to make a sub-written agreement with the DARFO III, representing the DA for the actual implementation of the projects.

7ID Inspector General Col. Librado Moog who came in behalf of 7ID Brig. Gen. Glorioso Miranda and DARFO III Regional Executive Director Andrew Villacorta were the signatories for the MOU Signing, DARFO III Coordinator Avelino David and 7ID Acting Chief of Staff Col. Wilfredo Villahermosa stood witness to the event.

The program sequence, emceed by 1Lt Erwin Simanca, began with an invocation led by Cpt. Ciryll Abringe. Mr. David afterwards gave the Overview of the Project. He reported what has transpired one year after the mother-MOA signing. “DA had brought some inputs to highlight the agreement. For instance, we had the ceremonial releasing of the tilapia fingerlings in Cordero Dam so we hope you have benefited from them,” Mr. David said.

On the other hand, he mentioned that Typhoon Santi which greatly hit Nueva Ecija devastated some of the project sites such as the rice plantation in Real Estate Preservation and Welfare Center (REPEWC) and the chicken hatchery house. Nevertheless, he assured that the losses won’t amount much because the livelihood project was insured.

He also added that the 4x4 farming tractor with implements given by DA and is now under REPEWC Commanding Officer Lt. Col. Pedro Bedoña’s management has greatly helped in the planting and harvesting of crops such as mung bean, allocated with a 2.5 hectare area which harvested 275 kilos; rice, allocated 5 hectares which harvested measly 132 bags of rice with 65% milling recovery due to the typhoon onslaught. “Kahit sa kaunting paraan, meron tayong nalikom sa “rice planting,” Mr. David emphasized. 

After the Coordinator’s report, the actual MOU Signing followed. As written in the memorandum, DARFO III shall provide all agriculturally-related needs, such as livestock, seedlings, farming equipment and materials, fertilizers, and also the techno-trainings which are very essential to the program’s success. Meanwhile, 7ID shall be responsible for managing the project and whatever is granted by the DA. Their responsibility includes the management of the financial and organizational activities, maintenance and care of the animals, allocation of demo area for each specific commodity, submission of reports, and assignment of permanent personnel or staff to oversee the projects to ensure successful program implementation among others.

Before the program ended, Col. Moog in behalf of Brig. Gen. Miranda and Dir. Villacorta gave their respective remarks. Col. Moog said that since most lands are converted into residential areas, food security is put in danger, and livelihood projects such they had signed last year helped preserve food security and the welfare of the Army personnel and retirees. He added that sooner the entire community can benefit from the project. For example, tilapia could be bought at a much lower price not just by Army personnel but by the entire community surrounding the fort. He also focused on the importance the project can make in the lives of the Army personnel and retirees. “Testing ground is here,” Col. Moog emphasized. With the trainings and exposure in the projects, concerned Army personnel will be more confident in investing on farming and livestock on their own which will by far augment their livelihood. “In behalf of our Commander, we are happy with the effort of the DA,” the Inspector General added.

Dir. Villacorta expressed the same sentiments. He expressed that the MOU had focused on the DARFO III and 7ID which signifies their joy and at the same time, focus and seriousness with the project. “Gusto naming i-evaluate kung saan pa iyung pwedeng taniman and also the planting season,” Dir. Villacorta said. Since the project has gotten bigger, Dir. Villacorta reminded that labor and manpower aside from the climate and weather factors are two concerns which must addressed. “We should learn from our experiences. Alamin kung saan ba talaga suitable so that mautilize yung land area,” Dir. Villacorta added. He said that the 4-wheel tractor and the hand tractor which were granted to the 7ID must increase in number since they are planning to extend the project land area to 50 hectares which will grow crops such as cassava, corn, rice, and permanent crops such as mango, calamansi, and coffee, and raise livestock such as chicken, goat, and sheep. He also expressed that the Fort Magsaysay has a potential to be a certified seed grower which will eventually attract agricultural private companies to invest on the reservation area of the camp.

Indeed, the said MOU has strengthened the partnership between the DA-DARFO III and DND-AFP-7ID which will open more possibilities to fully stretch the potential of Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation in agricultural productivity, Army personnel’s welfare, and eventually, the entire community’s welfare as well.


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