Press Release
July 5, 2015

Casino earnings to help pay for a modernized PAGASA

The expected boom in casino and gaming activities would ensure that more modern Doppler radars would be available for use by the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) once it modernized.

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto today said his proposed bill on PAGASA would mandate state gaming regulator Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR) to set aside P3 billion to help a modernized weather bureau deliver "reliable, timely, localized" forecast.

Recto said such amount would come from the 50 percent share of the national government that PAGCOR remits to the government.

Recto said the Senate has opted to tap "off-budget" sources for PAGASA's modernization "in order not to crowd out other important social expenditures in the national budget."

He added: "If we need to get it from gaming revenues, so be it. We need the money so we don't have to roll the dice - or read the cards - in predicting if it will rain tomorrow."

In the Recto bill being debated in the Senate, PAGCOR funds would help PAGASA procure modern equipment such as Doppler radars, set up a world-class weather data center and other equipment.

"Even communication equipment which would allow PAGCOR to flood social media with warnings that a flood is coming," Recto added.

Recto said the "vision is for PAGASA to go local" and this would need deploying weather equipment in as many areas in the country as possible.

"We want a weather bureau to tell us when and where it would rain, so that the man behind the carabao in Mindoro will know when to plow the field and the man behind the wheel in Malabon will know when to plod through flooded streets," Recto said.

"Weather forecast is traffic app. Lalung lalo na sa Metro Manila, where the economic cost of vehicular traffic is already P2.4 billion on an uneventful day and possibly twice that amount on bad weather nights," Recto said.

At present, a string of 10 Doppler radars provide service from Aparri, Cagayan to Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur. Five more are being built.

PAGCOR gets bulk of its revenues from casino and gaming operations and from the granting of licenses to private casino operators.

In 2014, the gaming agency booked a revenue of P39.9 billion and remitted P14 billion to the national government.

Global casino players in partnership with local groups have opened shop in the country. Among the first were Bloomberry Resorts' Solaire Resort Casino, Melco Crown Entertainment's City of Dreams Manila, and Malaysian-backed Resorts World Manila.

At least two more integrated casino resorts are set to open in the next few years, namely: Manila Bayshore, a joint venture between Alliance Global Group Inc. and Malaysia's Genting Group; and Japanese billionaire Kazuo Okada's Manila BayResorts.

PAGCOR regulates all such casinos.

Recto, who also chairs the Senate science and technology panel, stressed "the ferocious, fickle and frequent storms" climate change brings in calling for "a strengthened weather agency which can warn and guide the public on how to respond to threats to lives and properties."

Recto said a parade of cyclones from 2004 to 2014 left 14,150 dead, 46,691 injured, 4,169 missing; damaged 4.5 million houses and destroyed P338 billion worth of properties.

Recto's bill places the total cost to modernize PAGASA at P3.9 billion plus P45 million annually to fund the compensation adjustments and P70 million for training and scholarships.

"We need a personnel retention scheme because more and more PAGASA personnel leave the Philippine area of responsibility yearly," the senator said.

But even without the Philippines sitting on the typhoon belt, a modern weather bureau is still needed because "human activities are weather-dependent, so we need a dependable weather service."

Recto said the modernization of PAGASA remains a "missing link" in the country's climate adaptation efforts. "There can be no climate change adaptation without weather bureau modernization."

Many studies, he said, have tagged the Philippines as "the second most disaster-prone country in the world."

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