Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Is PAGASA to Blame?


Everybody is again playing the blame game with the much maligned Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA). No less than the President of the Republic of the Philippines repremanded our poor weather forecasters for "not doing what they are supposed to do", as he claimed. He also admonished them "That information it is sorely lacking and we have had this problem for quite a long time."

I can not help but feel for the employees of PAG-ASA. Each time something like this happens, they are sure to be blamed. In fact, even when there is no weather disaster , everyone is pointing their fingers already at them. PAGASA is guilty not by reasonable doubt but by mere default.

No one is looking for the exact reason for the failure of the system. The President can wash his fingers straight from Poncius Pilate's bowl of water by hurriedly issuing statements like the ones he stated. The media can mock hopelessness at the institution and show their arrogance as if they are well aware of everything. And everybody else can grumble and taunt the forecasting team. But what everyone lacks is the common sense to just sit back, think and think again.

PAGASA, contrary to the accusations of the President and everybody else, is doing its job. It has been doing its job for a very long time. It did its job when Milenyo came, during Ondoy and when Basyang arrived. These forecasters are scientists and mathematicians. Their jobs specification is to do the Math. They calculate the incoming weather and estimate its approach. It is an exact science. All information are provided by their current system and all they needed to do is do the necessary calculations using the prescribed formula. It is not as if PAGASA is blurting out weather alerts by simply going online and looking at the satellite shots shown on the monitor like what most of us internet addicts are doing. It is not as if they derive conclusions based on what is safe and covenient to say in public. No that is not how they work.

They conclude based on the data not because the President and the public would have liked to hear something else from them.

If we are to blame anyone, blame it to the inutileness of the politicians. (Oooops! Duck Noynoy as this might hit you!) PAGASA from time immemorial has been complaining about the lack of support it is getting from the government to make sure that they are going to be able to provide accurate forecasts especially during the typhoon season. This is older than before Ernie Baron started forecasting for TV Patrol. It has been there already even when Noynoys mom was still the President. I remember hearing about this issue already back in the days when lahar was just starting to devastate Central Luzon.

It is only during the time of the previous administration of Gloria that PAGASA was handed out two new doppler systems to better track down weather systems. But given the vast area and the topology of the country considering its mountain ranges, two doppler radar systems will not be enough. Five more doppler radars are to be installed this year as part of that upgrade commissioned by Arroyo.

If only this was done at a much earlier time, maybe we could have made better preparations for Milenyo, Ondoy and Basyang.

The President is correct though in saying that "we have had this problem for quite a long time". The question is what did he do about it? What did his mother do about it? What did all his politician friends, relatives and co-horts do about it? They have been in power for so long, why didn't he do anything about it?

My guess, he can not do anything about it! Heck, he can't even pass any law as a Congressman which is his job before. Wait? Who again is not doing what he was supposed to do?

The Philippine forecasters are doing their job Mr President! In fact they are very good at what they are doing. This is the reason why most of them are are now giving their services outside of the country as succesful weather forecasters in the Middle East, Australia and other countries who have better equipments. If you notice, Ka Tani is not the one being interviewed on TV any more. At present, the ones that you would see are unfamiliar faces, some of whom seem to be new graduates.

The best forecasters are already gone, Mr President. Who can blame them? They are not being properly treated at home...

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