THE WEATHER BUREAU
By Engr. DANTE B. YGLOPAZ
Former Astronomer and Chief of Weather Bureau Astronomical Observatory
@ UP Diliman Campus, Quezon City
It is a very unprofessional conduct for the President to sack someone whose professional integrity and capacity is beyond question. This refers to the action taken by the President when he sacked Dr. Prisco Nilo, a Ph D in Meteorology and Head of PAGASA. Is having done “mistake” in weather forecasting is an act of corruption or a disservice to the public trust? Will he sack the Secretary of Public Works and Highway when an engineering blunder is build under his supervision? Will he sack the Director of NFA after finding there are oversupply of imported rice and are being rotten in the warehouse? Will he remove from the Office the Secretary of Dept of Environment and Natural Resources when there occurred illegal logging on forest reserve for national reservation such as the La Mesa Dam, Mt Sto Tomas of Baguio City? If he can start sacking all incompetent employees of the government service who does disservice to the public, then he can justify the firing of Dr. Prisco Nilo.
Dr. Prisco Nilo, a doctorate in Meteorology, had served unselfishly the Weather Bureau in all his capability and capacity without any extra enumeration. You can count on the number of your finger, Mr. President, the Filipino who have doctorate in Meteorology in the Philippines, those who have Ph D in Physics. The study of Meteorology requires a highly advance knowledge in mathematics and physics in which very few Filipino have that kind of capability.
There are only two Ph D in Physics who head the Weather Bureau. The late Dr. Casimiro and Dr. Kintanar. Dr. Kintanar twice became the President of the World Meteorology Organization (WMO) of the UN. This manifest that the international physics and meteorology society recognized the capacity of Filipino scientist which is very rare in this country.
When my son was among the top ten of UPCAT he 1985, he was given the option to take Inter Med in UP (a crashed course in Medicine). Instead he choosed to take BS in Physics. His reason is: there are millions of Filipino Doctors but a handful of physicists we have in this country since the University of the Philippines was established about a century ago.
Going back to the Weather Bureau, no President of this country from the time of Gen. Aguinaldo to your present time, had made any single effort to improve the weather forecasting equipment of the Weather Bureau. Dr. Kintanar, when he was still the head of the agency, had tried hard to upgrade the Weather Bureau by making it a Weather Commission. However, we have a politician, the late Sen. Emmanuel Pelaez, who interfered on this idea and instead make it PAGASA (Phil Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration). This is no longer relevant to the current services of PAGASA. Geophysical was already absorbed by the Phil Volcanology Commission. Astronomical service is almost nil for lack of equipment.
No congressmen nor senators have the ability to make the weather bureau a first class scientific agency covering meteorology, astronomy and geophysics. Improving the Weather Bureau is not a glaring political propaganda for any politician. To build roads and bridges with their name on it is more profitable for them. How many more Presidents we will have to realize this negligence on our scientific service?
In 1955, the late Prof Ricardo C. Cruz, made a remarkable “manual” calculations of the solar eclipse with an error of 0.25 seconds from actual observation. We had contributed on astronomical observations to the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. Unfortunately, to this date, the Weather Bureau lacks the personnel and equipment to participate internationally in this field.
When I was the head of the Astronomical Observatory (1965 – 1975), we tried to upgrade our instrument especially the time service wherein we have a hundreds calls daily asking for the precise time. We proposed a cesium clock (almost similar to an atomic clock) to give time precisely to 0.1 of a second. Time is an integral part to the business community especially with the current development in computer technology. Time service was already junked when I had the opportunity to visit the observatory.
So perhaps, Mr. President, you should orient yourself to the history of our Weather Bureau and where our government fails in this respect. It is one of the most neglected agency. You can fire Dr. Nilo if you want but please do not replace him with someone whose knowledge is volcanology. It is indeed very professionally insulting.
DANTE B. YGLOPAZ
Adrs: 72 Bronze St., SSS Vill