Mostly sunny for weathermen: They will get overdue benefitsBy Michael Lim Ubac
Philippine Daily Inquirer
It will be mostly sunny from now on for the employees of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) as they will be receiving at last their suspended and overdue benefits.
The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has authorized the release of P39.5 million to support the Magna Carta benefits that had been withheld from Pagasa weather forecasters, scientists and other employees.
The amount covers laundry, subsistence, longevity and hazard allowances that the employees were entitled to during the first semester, or from March to June 2012, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said Wednesday.
New budget rules
The allowances were stopped last March under the Aquino government’s new budgetary rules, prompting a protest action from the Pagasa workers.
Abad said the DBM issued a special allotment release order (Saro) in mid-August to cover the funding requirements for the Pagasa worker benefits for the period.
The benefits are mandated by Republic Act No. 8439, the Magna Carta for Scientists, Engineers, Researchers and other Science and Technology Personnel in Government.
Under the Magna Carta, Pagasa employees are entitled to a daily subsistence allowance of P150 and P500 a month for laundry expenses.
Longevity pay is calculated as 5 percent of an employee’s monthly basic pay for every five years of service. Hazard pay is pegged at 15 percent of basic monthly pay.
Abad, however, told the weather agency to comply with Magna Carta rules in the second half of the year, particularly those on the release of hazard and longevity pay, as the release of the benefits would be strictly enforced in accordance with the Magna Carta law and its implementing guidelines.
This, he said, will “preclude irregularities and fund abuse that have already become a common practice in many government agencies.”
He cited the frequent violation of rules in the release of hazard pay to Pagasa employees.
He said department funds intended for unfilled positions were frequently realigned just to support these benefits, “which were often overinflated or unwarranted.”
“For the longest time, Pagasa has dispensed hazard allowances to all its employees, without any distinction whatsoever between workers exposed to risk and those who are merely working in uncompromised environments. This isn’t just a glaring violation of the law, the practice also contradicts the guidelines dictated by Pagasa itself,” Abad said.
Abad earlier said that only weathermen exposed to risk would enjoy hazard pay during the second half of the year.