Pagasa: New radar not enough
VIRAC, Catanduanes—Despite completion of the multimillion-dollar Doppler Radar facility at Buenavista village in Bato town, which is scheduled for inauguration by President Aquino today, the local office of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) continues to be hobbled by basic problems such as lack of personnel and communications links.
Pagasa Virac chief meteorological officer Eufronio Garcia admits his office needs at least 11 more weathermen to man the radar facility and the Virac Synoptic Station on a 24-hour basis.
The Doppler radar, which sits on top of a hill in Buenavista, has been acquired through a P1.2-billion grant from the Japan International Cooperation Agency. Two other Doppler radars are being built in Samar and in Aparri, Cagayan.
The sophisticated new equipment gives basic meteorological readings such as temperature, rain, wind intensity and direction and allows more accurate predictions of floods and other calamities.
But he said the Buenavista site alone requires eight additional weathermen.
Garcia said Pagasa-Virac presently has six men working full-time and shuttling between the two stations—without a single day-off.
He said Pagasa Manila has assured him that two more weathermen will be added to the local office this year to partly address the manpower shortage but the extra personnel has yet to arrive.
Weathermen also lamented that they have not been given funds for communication and they have to use their personal cell phones to contact their colleagues and relay public weather information and bulletins to the public.
They said that last year they were forced to advise the public to just call their contact numbers as they could no longer afford sending “severe weather bulletins” through text.
Garcia said the very least Pagasa Manila could do for the weather agency would be to negotiate with Smart Communications to provide free cell phone services to local weathermen since the telecommunication firm’s tower in Bato occupies part of the Buenavista compound.
He said the Smart cell site was constructed sometime in the 1990s during the term of then Representative Leandro Verceles Jr. but the local Pagasa, as well as the provincial government, are both unaware of any document or contract allowing the firm to use part of the radar site.