Workers at Philippine weather agency stage protest
MANILA, Philippines (AP) -- Amid a passing storm and recent massive flooding, hundreds of workers at the Philippines' weather agency staged a protest on Tuesday over suspended cash benefits and warned that forecasting services could deteriorate if the problem persists.
Forecasters and other employees of the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration wore black arm bands and hoisted streamers urging the government to resume payment of hazard and other allowances, which were suspended in March.
While the workers did not plan any work stoppage, protest leader Ramon Agustin said some hard-up employees have failed to report for work due to lack of money.
"The only reason why we remain strong in performing our tasks is our pure love for the country, but this would eventually weaken," Agustin said in a news conference at the weather agency, which buzzed with activity as forecasters tracked Tropical Storm Kai-Tak off the country's northeast.
The archipelago serves like a welcome mat for about 20 Pacific storms and typhoons that blow toward Asia every year, often leaving a trail of death and destruction.
Relentless rains for nearly two weeks culminated in a two-day deluge last week that submerged the capital, Manila, and outlying farming provinces, leaving nearly 100 people dead and forcing more than 400,000 people to flee from homes.
The government was still grappling with the aftermath of the massive flooding when Kai-Tak blew in over the weekend.
"We assure the public that a walkout is farthest from our mind," said Agustin, who heads a 900-strong workers' group. "But our workers need to be rescued too."
Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said payment of the hazard pay and other cash benefits were suspended to correct past irregularities but added the workers would get back the benefits soon.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)