Project NOAH (Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards), the country's program providing data for disaster prevention and mitigation, will be shut down by the government by March this year.
Project NOAH Executive Director Dr. Mahar Lagmay told GMA News Online that he lamented the loss of valuable personnel and skilled scientists due to a lack of adequate and timely compensation.
Despite their life-saving expertise, many of Project NOAH's personnel went without pay for months, according to Lagmay.
"We already lost 40 well-trained, skilled and experienced scientists," Lagmay said.
When asked what would happen to Project NOAH's facilities and technology after it is shut down, Lagmay said that it was more of an issue of human resources than technology.
Earlier in the day, Lagmay confirmed in a radio interview on dzRH that the project will only run until February 28.
"There are a lot of government funds or disaster risk reduction (pero) wala lang po for Project NOAH after February 28," Lagmay told GMA News Online.
"We were told verbally that our request for extension will not be approved."
According to Lagmay, this is on top of funding delays that have long beleaguered the project.
Scientists: no pay for months
"(It would be) at least two to three months before scientists and researchers will get paid. Last year, it was five months because our proposal to continue was disapproved; we just made an appeal," he said.
"Two years ago, researchers' salaries were delayed by three to four months! How will they eat? For researchers who have families, what will they provide to their children?" an exasperated Lagmay told GMA News Online.
Project NOAH Bill: Too little, too late
Lagmay also told GMA News Online that there were moves in legislature to institutionalize Project NOAH into a full agency of the Philippine government.
However, he said that the so-called "Project NOAH Bill" proceeded at a glacial pace: much of the project's skilled personnel had already left even before the bill could take off the ground.
Project NOAH history
The government, under the administration of President Benigno Aquino III, launched Project NOAH in July 2012.
The Department of Science and Technology said in the project's website that it was launched "in response to President Aquino’s instructions to put in place a responsive program for disaster prevention and mitigation, specifically, for the Philippines’ warning agencies to be able to provide a 6 hour lead-time warning to vulnerable communities against impending floods and to use advanced technology to enhance current geo-hazard vulnerability maps."
The project's site said Project NOAH's mission is to undertake "undertake disaster science research and development, advance the use of cutting edge technologies and recommend innovative information services in government’s disaster prevention and mitigation efforts."
The government's weather bureau, PAGASA, notes that the Philippines is prone to tropical cyclones due to its geographical location.
It said cyclones in the country "generally produce heavy rains and flooding of large areas and also strong winds, which result in heavy casualties to human life, destruction to crops and properties."
"Thus, it is of utmost importance to have sufficient knowledge on such maritime phenomena for beneficial purposes," PAGASA said on its website.
At least 20 cyclones enter the Philippine Area of Responsibility in a year, of which about half make landfall. —ALG, GMA News