MANILA, Philippines—If the new appropriation for hazard benefits proposed in the P2.26-trillion 2014 national budget isn’t enough to keep the country’s weather men from leaving for better pay abroad, it may be time to review the government’s salary structure, Sen. Ralph Recto said Saturday.
Recto, the Senate President Pro Tempore, said the proposed budget for next year already provides for substantially increased hazard pay for civilian government employees and hiked benefits under the Magna Carta for Science and Technology.
He also mentioned four new appropriations for hazard and hardship benefits.
“At the rate weather forecasters are leaving the Philippine area of responsibility, we may end up with no one alarming us that a typhoon is coming,” Recto said.
Recto, also the chair of the Senate committee on science and technology, made the statement after another forecaster, Ricky Fabregas, was reported to have left the weather bureau Pagasa to accept a P100,000-a-month job in the Congo.
“If the problem is in the delay of the release of the benefits of Pagasa people, then I am confident that the [Department of Budget and Management], being the main preacher of the gospel against red tape, will resolve it soonest,” he said.
Recto said the 2013 budget provided for P51.8 million in hazard pay for government personnel outside the uniformed services and P183.7 million in benefits under the Magna Carta for Science and Technology.
He added that under the proposed 2014 budget, the benefits would increase substantially with the total allocation for hazard pay rising to P832 million and the Magna Carta for Science and Technology benefits up to P224.6 million.
“The good news is that four new ‘hazard and hardship’ allowances for civilian employees have been created in the 2014 budget,” Recto said.
He said the 2014 budget provides for an allocation for hazard-duty pay at P1.3 billion; high-risk duty pay, P893,000; hazardous-duty pay, P586 million; special-hardship allowance, P1.17 billion.
“I think the restructuring and right-sizing of the hazard-pay allocations stem from the redefinition of what constitutes a hazard. And the creation of different shades of hazard pay should be welcomed by those in high-risk jobs,” Recto said.
“Thus I hope that the perennial compensation issues confronted by personnel at Pagasa and similar agencies would be solved by the new allocations in 2014,” he said.
Recto said that if not, “we will call all stakeholders to the Senate and we will ask them for solutions, legislative in kind, if necessary, on how to prevent technical people from leaving mission-critical posts like air traffic controllers and weather forecasters.
“Perhaps, this will be what I will first tackle as chair of the committee on science and technology—how to stop this conversion of government technical people into [overseas Filipino workers],” Recto said.
“If we need to review the pay classification of the Salary Standardization Law III or special provisions or additional allocations in the General Appropriations Act, we will discuss that,” he added.
Recto said the government can’t keep its work force from seeking greener pastures abroad if it can’t meet their need for better pay.
“Talent has the right to go where the money is. Talented people have the right to happiness. If the pay here is really low, you can’t issue a hold-departure order against them,” Recto said.