THE ongoing modernization program of the Armed Forces of the Philipines (AFP) continues to move forward amid allegations of irregularities in two previous multi-billion peso contracts for the supply of force protection gears and fixed wing aircrafts.
AFP chief of staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista on Monday disclosed that they were on the process of acquiring two more C130 cargo planes and two strategic sea lift vessels and would acquire more as the resources allow them.
“You have seen their importance during calamities, not just for military operations but other operations which other than war, like rescue and relief effort,” he said.
According to Bautista, the Air Force has only three operational C130s, far short than the ideal number of nine such planes.
Air Forces spokesman Col. Miguel Okol said that a brand-new C-130 plane is pegged at more than P3 billion.
All three C-130s being used by the AFP were refurbished. One of them was purchased at a cost of P1.747 billion from the Tunisian Air Force.
Meanwhile, the Coalition Against Corruption (CAC), an independent observer in the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) of the Department of National Defense has refuted the decision of the committed that disqualified the lowest bidder in the P1,763 billion contract for the supply of armor vests for the Army and Marines.
The CAC is composed of various organizations and groups that included the Ateneo School of Government, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, and the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines.
Through lawyer Paterno Menzon, the CAC “observer for DND biddings,” the group asked Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin to look into the decision of the BAC, headed by Defense Assistant Secretary Efren Fernandez, that disqualified Kolon Global Corp., a Korean company that initially won the bidding.
The action of the CAC, the first since the group was tapped by the DND as a third party observer with its BAC to monitor its acquisitions, particularly those of big ticket projects, has directly put the credibility of the BAC under question.
The CAC has sent Gazmin several letters that raised concerns and challenged the decision of the BAC.
Records show that Kolon, one of the four companies that tendered bid proposals, has submitted the lowest calculated bid of P800 million for the 44, 080 pieces of armor vests. A second bidder submitted a bid proposal of P1.2 billion or a difference of P400 million.
The BAC accepted and evaluated the proposal of Kolon, but it later disqualified the company after its vests did not reportedly meet the measurements that were required by the BAC, as reported and recommended by its technical working group.
However, Menzon refuted the findings of the BAC in one of his letters to Gazmin. The independent observer joined the members of the technical working group when they traveled to South Korea and was with the group when the company’s armor vest was measured.
In fact, a member of the technical working group even signed the report of Menzon that the force protection gear was compliant to the requirements of the DND. Still, the BAC adhered to the recommendation of its technical working group.
William B. Depasupil