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Pagasa-Mactan upgrades complete in 2010

First Posted 09:10:00 07/19/2008

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THE WEATHER monitoring station of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Association (Pagasa) on Mactan Island, Cebu, plans to acquire new equipment that will make it a weather forecasting station.

But one of the key pieces of equipment, a doppler radar, is still scheduled to arrive just shortly before 2010 still, said weather station chief Oscar Tabada.

Until then, Pagasa-Mactan would have to continue relying on weather bulletins issued by Pagasa?s central office in Manila every six hours, said Tabada.

?It has been a long dream of ours to have this modernization program. If we have the doppler radar, our forecasting will be close to perfect,? he said.

With the radar system, Pagasa-Mactan would be able to pinpoint eyes of typhoons and anticipate its speed and direction without having to wait for bulletins from Manila.

?Forecasts will already be closer to what will actually happen,? he said.

But even with the new equipment, weather forecasting will never be perfect.

?The science of meteorology is not perfect, unlike the science of mathematics,? Tabada said in a media forum held yesterday afternoon.

Once Pagasa-Mactan gets its upgrades, it would become the backup national forecasting station, in case the weather forecasting facilities in Manila malfunction.

Doppler radars send out microwave signals that bounce off objects. The strength and frequency of the returning signal is then compared to the original signal sent out. The difference between the two signals can be translated to measure the size, density and direction of an object from which the signal bounced.

In weather, doppler radar systems will allow scientists to track the movements of weather phenomena, such as typhoons.

Pagasa-Mactan has other new equipment at its disposal. In October last year, the office received a satellite imagery device, while another piece of equipment used to forecast weather arrived in February this year, Tabada said.

The modernization of Pagasa-Mactan, including the price of the doppler radar and the construction of a three-story building, among other expenditures, will cost the national government P100 million, Tabada said.

The allocation may be taken from the national government's calamity funds, he said.

Part of the money would be used to train Pagasa personnel who would be assigned to operate the radar system.

He said the government has already started bidding procedures to purchase the equipment, while the soil within the Pagasa-Mactan grounds is being tested to determine the viability of erecting a new building there.

Despite any new technologies that Pagasa acquires, Tabada said caution remains the best way to prevent weather-related accidents.

He said passengers should always reconsider traveling when there?s a weather disturbance.

Asked about how some sectors blamed Pagasa for the sinking of the MV Princess of the Stars, Tabada said the weather bureau is only a ?warning agency.?

?We do not have police power. We only give data to the coastguard, which decides if vessels should be allowed to sail,? he said. REPORTER DORIS C. BONGCAC

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