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Bicol University (BU) to offer climate science-related courses
« on: November 17, 2010, 05:39:35 PM »
By Danny O. Calleja

In response to the shortage of weathermen in the country, Albay Gov. Joey Salceda on Tuesday said he is all out in supporting the plan of Bicol University (BU) to offer climate science-related courses leading to a degree in meteorology.

“It is a given fact that our weather bureau is being confronted by a shortage in weather forecasters and that we need science-oriented colleges or universities offering courses leading to this line of expertise,” Salceda said.

So far, it is only the College of Science (CS) at the Diliman campus of the University of the Philippines (UP), through its institute of Environmental Science and Meteorology (IESM), that produces doctorate (PhD) and master’s (MS) degree graduates in this field, Salceda who is also chairman of the Bicol’s Regional Development Council (RDC), said.

For now, BU was identified as one of the schools in which Bachelor of Science (BS) in Meteorology may be offered and, for its president, Fay Lauraya, Salceda’s proposal is very much acceptable and, in fact, “we are already mapping out a plan to fast-track this project”.

“We accept the challenge and we are now exploring all possibilities of being able to offer related courses as soon as possible,” Lauraya said over the weekend.

Prisco Nilo, the former director of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) who holds a doctorate in meteorology, in a recent visit to the BU main campus here on invitation from the university’s administration, agreed with the plan.

During the visit, Nilo explained that the study of meteorology requires a highly advanced knowledge of mathematics and physics. There have been only two holders of PhD in Physics who headed PAGASA -- the late Casimiro del Rosario and Roman Kintanar.

Kintanar twice became the president of the United Nations’ World Meteorology Organization (WMO), Nilo said, showing that the international physics and meteorology society recognizes the capabilities of Filipino scientists.

He lamented the fact that there are now only three meteorologists in the country, thus the dearth of experts and prospective trainers in this field of study. He revealed the sad reality that because of more lucrative opportunities abroad, the local forecasters have left the country.

Nilo expressed his willingness to invite Bicol University, along with other interested schools, to avail of their modules and one-year training at PAGASA main office. He said this would be a good move towards supplementing the weather bureau’s need to re-build its capability in weather forecasting, which would also result in improving disaster readiness in the Philippines.

The university has initial plans of starting with the short-term courses that may be attended by target faculty who will later on become core faculty for the undergraduate course.

BU Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dr. Helen Llenaresas expressed willingness to prepare the proposal for the undergraduate four-year course observing that the general education subjects may even be offered while faculty are still training for the major subjects, so that the course may be offered sooner.

A short-term awareness course for media practitioners and other interested individuals will precede all these to support the disaster risk management system in the locale, Llenaresas said.

Students and the general public are looking forward to the finalization of plans on the matter, Lauraya said while Nilo said experts from PAGASA could serve as resource persons in certain subjects of courses in meteorology but only during off-season, that is, when typhoons are not impending, possibly late December or early January, and necessarily on weekends.

Salceda said the country is in dire need of competent weathermen that the BU would be producing when the plan materializes as the world go deeper into implementation of programs on climate change adaptation that the province of Albay had taken the lead role in the country.

The governor who has been recently named Senior Global Champion of Disaster Risk Reduction by the United Nations added that accurate weather forecasts are vital elements of disaster risk reduction, particularly that “climate change had been surprising us with a lot of weather variations”. (PNA)

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