Philippines socialists: `Moratorium on foreign debt to pay for a modern weather forecasting service'

Scenes from Manila in the aftermath of Typhoon Ondoy. Photos: Vitamin OC.

By Partido Lakas ng Masa

Moratorium on foreign debt servicing to pay for essential and basic services! Upgrade Pagasa’s equipment now!

October 8, 2009 -- Now we find out that Pagasa’s (the Philippines’s official weather bureau) main computer is on screensaver mode receiving no data because the main weather radar in Baguio City is on the blink (again) and all the while Typhoon Pepeng/Parma continues to threaten Luzon.

We also keep hearing the refrain from Pagasa officials of the need to buy five modern ``Doppler radars'' – equipment that we should have had decades ago. Modern weather radars are mostly pulse-Doppler radars, capable of detecting the motion of rain droplets in addition to intensity of the precipitation. Both types of data can be analysed to determine the structure of storms and their potential to cause severe weather. This equipment could have predicted the intensity and severity of Typhoon Ondoy [that hit Manila on September 26.].

We are also told that this Doppler radar costs US$100,000 a piece, or a total of 25 million pesos, for the radar that we desperately need to protect and save the lives and limbs of our people.

So, what’s the problem! Just buy it!

Where will the money come from? From our money spent on foreign debt servicing could be one place to start. Over the five-year period from 2003-2007, for example, the Philippines' foreign debt repayments amounted to some 1000 billion pesos. In the last five years Pagasa received only 4 billion pesos for equipment upgrades. So do the math. It’s not rocket science to figure out where the money can and should come from.

A modern weather forecasting system is an essential service for the country. The problem is not the lack of money. The problem is the priorities of our political leaders and governments. Apparently it’s more important to service our dubious foreign debt than prioritise essential services, and therefore the welfare and even lives of the masa (masses). This is the horrific truth.

The problem is that the system places little or no priority on the needs of the masa – on human needs. Partido Lakas ng Masa calls for an immediate moratorium on debt servicing so that we can buy the necessary modern weather forecasting equipment which is an essential service to save lives, as well as to prioritise the provision of other basic services for the masses.

[From Partido Lakas ng Masa (Party of the Labouring Masses). See the Partido Lakas ng Masa's flood relief appeal HERE.]