Pagasa chief Servando resigns
MANILA, Philippines — Brain drain has claimed another ranking official of the state-run weather bureau.
Vicente Malano, officer-in-charge at the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration told INQUIRER.net on Wednesday in a phone interview that he received a text message from Pagasa administrator Nathaniel Servando Tuesday night informing him of his decision to quit.
Servando has quit his job to take on a teaching post in the Middle East, Malano said at a news briefing at the Pagasa Science Garden on Wednesday.
“Yes,” Malano replied when asked if Servando had quit. “He took a leave on March 22. Last night (Tuesday) he texted me confirming his optional retirement.”
Malano said he received Servando’s text message at 7:40 p.m. It said: “This is to inform you that I have decided to optionally retire and leave Pagasa. I’ve submitted my letter to (Science and Technology Secretary Mario Montejo). Thanks for your support. Certainly I’ll miss your company.”
The 48-year-old Servando took a three-month leave of absence for health reasons, complaining of hypertension and diabetes. But when his leave lapsed in May, he sought an extension until August, which Montejo allowed.
By then Pagasa officials had learned that Servando had taken a teaching post at a university in Qatar, Malano said. He could not give other details, including which university.
“His first reason was health reason – he said he had high blood and diabetes. Now it’s because of an opportunity. His eldest child is now in college,” Malano said. Servando has three children.
As Pagasa administrator, Servando received a gross monthly salary of P68,428 plus a cost-of-living allowance of P2,000, said Venus Valdemoro, chief of Pagasa’s information office. She said word got around the agency that Servando had been offered a monthly salary of P600,000 in the Qatar school.
Malano said he understood Servando’s decision, considering that meteorologists abroad could get “three times, or five times, or eight times” what Pagasa pays.
“If you got an offer for that kind of pay, perhaps you would bite, too. Even our doctors are taking nursing courses to go abroad. They sacrifice being doctors to become nurses,” Malano said.
Servando had served Pagasa for 23 years. He first joined the agency as a weather specialist in January 1990 and became a senior weather specialist in October 2000. He served as acting chief of Pagasa’s Weather Forecasting Section in August 2002.
Servando was appointed deputy administrator for research and development in February 2004, and formally assumed leadership of the agency in 2012.
In July 2010, former weather division chief Nathaniel Cruz left the bureau for a job in Australia. He returned to the Philippines and became resident meteorologist for the GMA-7 network.
Science Undersecretary Graciano Yumul, who was the concurrent head of Pagasa, also left government in March last year to join a private firm. (The previous administrator Prisco Nilo was sacked by President Aquino in August 2010 after the agency failed to update an alert that a typhoon was passing through Manila).
For the past 10 years, more than 20 forecasters and employees in other divisions have left Pagasa for greener pastures abroad, according to the Philippine Weathermen Employees Association.
But Malano said the workforce was constantly being replenished.
“At Pagasa, we get many new meteorologists. We have hired more than 30 for the past two years. In fact, we have trained 28, six of them foreigners. So 22 are Pinoy,” he said.
“Before that, we had 10 meteorologists who obtained a master’s degree, so if you look at it, it’s one [Servando] versus 30-something,” he said.
Malano himself has been with Pagasa for 31 years, longer than Servando.
“They asked me, ‘Are you going to leave too’? I didn’t, and I’ve stayed with Pagasa and have only one child left in college. Even when I still didn’t have a wife, I never chose to go abroad,” he said.
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