PAGASA Staff Assured Of Benefits

MANILA, Philippines - The ''storm'' hovering over the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) may soon ''dissipate'' after Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Secretary Mario Montejo assured its employees on Saturday that their suspended benefits will be given back to them in the following weeks.

In a press conference, Montejo and Philippine Weathermen Employees Association (PWEA) President Ramon Agustin addressed the suspension of Magna Carta (MC) benefits among PAGASA employees.

According to Agustin, the MC benefits--including hazard pay, longevity pay and subsistence allowance and laundry allowance (SALA)-- have been suspended since March this year. ''We are not thinking of any mass action. We just want to bring out the present economic hardship being experienced by many PAGASA employees mainly because of the MC suspension,'' he said.

Agustin added that because of the suspended benefits, many PAGASA employees ''could barely go to work'' and some are even ''thinking of tending their resignation and look for job opportunities abroad.''

Last Tuesday, the PWEA released a statement regarding the suspended benefits and its effects to PAGASA employees. It was immediately acknowledged by Malacanang and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

Montejo said the MC benefits are stated under Republic Act 8439 and are usually being sourced from savings generated by the agency. ''However, after meeting with DBM officials, we will be taking a quick measure to alleviate the plight of many PAGASA employees presently hit by economic dislocation resulting from the suspension of MC benefits, '' he said.

Aside from assuring that their benefits will soon be restored from March onwards until the end of the year, Montejo announced that PAGASA employees ''will receive their benefits on a regular basis starting next year as it will already be part of the General Appropriations Act.''

In the previous years, MC benefits solely depended on the agency's savings.

Along with other PAGASA employees, Agustin welcomed this development. ''We are very elated by the concern shown by Secretary Montejo and the DBM,'' he said. ''Our dignity as public servants was restored by the attention given to us. This will inspire us more in performing our mandated task with intense dedication,'' he added.

Agustin also clarified that despite the ''sad condition'' PAGASA employees are currently in, they will not stage any protest or mass action that would affect the service efficiency of PAGASA. ''Despite suffering from economic hardship, employees would still maintain professionalism among its rank,'' he said.

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