Pagasa modernization delayed by Senate row

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The modernization of the facilities of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) is facing rough sailing in Congress.

The bill seeking funding for the three-year modernization of the state weather bureau will have to wait a little longer as it has become a collateral damage in the impending leadership shakeup in the Senate.

President Aquino has certified as urgent House Bill No. 6546, otherwise known as the “Pagasa Modernization Act,” which was passed by the House of Representatives last year and promptly transmitted to the Senate.

On Thursday, the Senate adjourned sine die without taking up Committee Report No. 743, which was already up for third reading.

Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, who resigned his post on the last day of session of the 15th Congress, blamed the lack of quorum for the failure to pass a noncontroversial but vital measure that would have increased the climate change resiliency of the country.

“No quorum,” said Sotto, explaining that as majority leader, he was having a hard time “shepherding administration measures” because of some problems with administration allies themselves.

Apparently unaware of this debacle, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte announced on Friday that Mr. Aquino had certified the bill as urgent on June 5.

Told later by the Inquirer that the Senate had already adjourned without passing the bill, she said: “That’s unfortunate, but we will find another way for it to be refiled.”

HB 6546 had been recommended for passage by Senators Edgardo Angara and Franklin Drilon “without amendment,” taking into consideration Senate Bills No. 73, 572, 1039, 1406 and 2489.

The bill says the three-year program aims “to develop a technology-based and financially self-sufficient data center which will serve as the central information station for real time weather updates available to every individual and for the Philippines’ typhoon preparedness plan.”

It calls for, among others, the upgrading of “physical resources and operational techniques through acquisition of state-of-the-art instruments, equipment and facilities to enhance current capabilities in providing timely and reliable forecasting, warning services for the general public and information for agriculture, transportation and other industries across the country.”

At the briefing, Valte explained that the President had certified as urgent the passage of HB 6546 since “the session is coming to an end, and this is one of the bills that is already in the advanced stage of legislation.”

She said the measure was “important because it provides (funding) for the modernization of Pagasa (which) is something that we sorely need.”

“As you know, we are putting in rain gauges in different locations to help us determine the level of water in certain places. We’re also putting up the Doppler radars to help us predict or tell the public the state of the weather in the country,” she added.

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