Sunday, November 21, 2010

Beneath the Lightweight Issues: A PAGASA Story


Since the Memorandum of Understanding for a DO
ST IV-A project has just been signed recently, I think I can share a few things about it now. The media was also present during the signing so most likely, an article or two about it is now printed on a newspaper or published online. The project is called ICT-based Disaster Monitoring and Feedback System is currently in progress. The institution in which I am currently working for is part of the project, hence my presence at the place.

The event’s guest of honor was Raymund Liboro, director of the Science and Technology Information Institute of DOST. Although he suffered a sprain somewhere on his right feet, he came to grace the event.

I cannot say for sure that what he talked about was impromptu. I daresay that his cuento, as he termed it, was anchored on an update approach, that is, sharing what is currently happening inside DOST, specifically PAGASA.

He initially posed a question: were we satisfied at how PAGASA performed during the onslaught of the typhoon Juan? The audience was divided. But Sir Liboro’s shrugging of shoulders seemed to give hint to what he later told us. It was, he said, a story a few people only knows.

As with the other coming of typhoons, PAGASA was on alert again when typhoon Juan was detected on the satellite. It was a typhoon which almost looked like a boring thing to watch. He said that it seemed Juan will just tread a straight path, from Aparri, Cagayan and will exit through Laoag. That was it.

But hours before their next major weather bulletin, satellite images showed that typhoon track was changing; it was gradually going southwest. The possibility that it could cut across northern Metro Manila down to Cebu came into existence.

Holding on to the basic concept that a typhoon’s path can be predicted if low-pressures areas were mapped out, they begun figuring it out its possible new path. Using a crude ruler and through manual computations, they verified their forecasts in order to confidently map out the typhoon’s path.

And the results?

It would enter a particular beach in Isabela and cut through Mountain Province. This was their projected typhoon Juan’s path.

Anxiety reigned in the room of the monitoring team.

Will they bet their jobs for this new bulletin?

They did in the end. Eight people signed the next weather bulletin. One of them was the DOST Secretary himself. It was unprecedented. Only three people sign weather bulletins, continued Sir Liboro.

The weather bulletin was released via Twitter. And…

…the typhoon traced the path PAGASA had forecasted.

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Sir Liboro mentioned three things that he said were the essence of the marching order of the DOST Secretary. Just forgot to take notes of them. It was it seemed to me a story of success shared to us and a story of how well the agency is now functioning.

But in light of the present threat of Senator Miriam-Defensor Santiago to ‘massacre’ some of the cabinet members, who she said were lightweights, how can one balance between a story of success and a story of records or credentials. I am not saying that the DOST secretary is one of those Senator Santiago is referring to. She is yet to name them. But then, a success or a failure of a government of department is a success or failure as well of the administration who oversees them.

Forgive this novice observation. Having just passed the honeymoon period, the Aquino administration should really strengthen itself primarily for itself and secondly for the people that it has promised to serve. Critiques and criticisms will come hard and bitter. But in an administration that champions a tuwid na landas, proving itself is indeed a bloody endeavor.

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