TWO lawmakers urged Congress to fast track the approval of a proposed measure upgrading the forecasting facilities of the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Service Administration (Pagasa) as the typhoon season began.

Representatives Cesar Sarmiento (Lone District, Catanduanes) and Juan Edgardo Angara (Lone District, Aurora) will introduce the bill that will institutionalize the modernization of Pagasa to address its problem in weather forecasting.

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An upset President Beningo "Noynoy" Aquino III earlier scolded the weather bureau for failing to produce accurate forecasts on which areas Typhoon Basyang will directly affect then.

Sarmiento said the technical problems being encountered by the state weather bureau should have been addressed long time ago.

“I am optimistic our colleagues in Congress will support this measure since it would be for the good of the people,” he said.

“The death of the fishermen in Catanduanes and Bataan could have been avoided if there were announcement and warning from Pagasa on the situation of the typhoon,” Sarmiento added.

Angara, for his part, said that the weather bureau's upgrading should not only concentrate on the acquisition of modern instruments but also improve on the field of research and development.

Likewise, Angara said the agency should address the problem of low salaries and benefits of their employees. “I was told that some Pagasa employees are leaving the agency to seek green pasture abroad.”

Former Pagasa weather forecaster and spokesperson Nathaniel Cruz reportedly went on leave last May to work in Australia.

In the upper chamber of Congress, Loren Legarda has filed Senate Bill No. 1406 or the Pagasa Modernization Act of 2010, which will create a Pagasa Modernization Fund amounting to P5 billion to be used exclusively to finance the implementation of the modernization program.

The funds will be allocated particularly to the acquisition of modern equipment and communication systems, providing for the necessary informational requirements, not including the increase in the salaries and allowances. (Kathrina Alvarez/Sunnex)