10-year project to print passports awarded sans bidding
A party-list congressman is asking the Department of Foreign Affairs to clarify reports it has entered into an P8 billion, 10-year contract for the printing of passports without passing through the bidding process as required by law.
Akbayan party-list Rep. Ibarra Gutierrez was referring to the awarding by the DFA of the contract to the APO Production Unit Inc., a government-controlled corporation under the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO).
Gutierrez said he is puzzled as to why the DFA awarded the printing contract to APO considering that Philippine passports have long been produced ed at the security printing plant of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas in Quezon City which is technically equipped to handle the printing of bank notes, documents and forms that need security features.
The congressman, in a statement, claimed that APO virtually admitted that it could not handle the job and will outsource the printing to United Graphic Expression (UGEC), a private commercial printer.
“DFA’s awarding of the e-passport printing contract to the APO Production Unit, as well as the latter’s outsourcing of the printing job to UGEC, were all done without the benefit of a public bidding. What is the reason for all the haste and the secrecy? Why did the DFA suddenly agree to transfer the production of the country’s passports to the APO Production Unit, a private firm that has no established track record for printing security documents?,” Gutierrez, a lawyer, argued.
“Why fix what ain’t broke? If the DFA really intends to modernize and make more secure Philippine passports, it should have considered the world’s leading producer of e-passports and e-booklets,” Gutierrez added.
The existing Philippine e-passport is machine readable, compiles biometric data and has security features that include: a hidden encoded image; an ultra-thin, holographic laminate and a tamper-proof electronic microchip.
“Are either the APO Production Unit or its subcontractor UGEC capable of providing the numerous security features in our passports? This is more than just a question of convenience, but one of national security.
The security features are there precisely to prevent our passports from being easily counterfeited and used by syndicates and terrorist organizations. We cannot put this vital task into the hands of a company with a less than solid record,” Gutierrez said.
“The DFA should make clear its intentions and fully explain the reasons behind its decision. Otherwise, it may put the integrity and reliability of Philippine passports even in grave peril,” Gutierrez said.