The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) - Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) warns of stiff penalties for those thinking of stealing, taking, and tampering government equipment for weather monitoring, risk reduction, and disaster preparedness.

The penalties range from two to 15 years imprisonment and/or fines from P200,000 to P 3 million. Further, under R.A. 10344 or An Act Penalizing the Unauthorized Taking, Stealing, Keeping or Tampering of Government Risk Reduction and Preparedness Equipment, Accessories and Similar Facilities, the mere possession of said equipment is already prima facie evidence for prosecution and imposition of penalties.

Congressman Angelo Palmones of AGHAM Party List, principal author of the law, stressed that the penalties are bigger because the consequences of stealing the equipment are far greater than ordinary theft. “An example of this is what happened in Agno River where the cables connecting the sensors were stolen and so no warning was given to the people, resulting in damages,” said Palmones.

On the other hand, Dr. Renato U. Solidum, Phivolcs director said, “The role of the community and the people is very important and the local government units must be vigilant in helping safeguard the equipment in their areas. “

During the open forum, veteran broadcaster Mario Garcia, formerly of PTV 4, suggested that PAGASA inscribe tamper-proof and visibly identifiable labels on the equipment bearing the words “Government Property” for easy identification. By doing so, Garcia said it would be easier for the government to punish violators.

“When I was a director in SBMA in Subic, we formed the Social Fencing Group that created a network of informants in the communities who provided them information as to possible perpetrators because they are the ones who knew the residents, ” Garcia shared.

Other speakers during the public hearing were Lita Suerte Felipe, legislative liaison specialist of DOST; Dr. Vicente Malano of PAGASA; and Usec. Corazon Jimenez and Col. Gerry Ilagan of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority.

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