• Red alert on purchase of patrol boats

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    AN Agence France Presse report published by The Manila Times on Tuesday said the Philippines will buy 100 patrol boats to protect the country’s fishing grounds from poachers, mainly fishing vessels from China and Taiwan.

    The report quoted Asis Perez, chief of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), as saying that 71 of the boats will be used for coastal patrols while 27 will patrol the high seas.

    This development is most welcome. As Perez told the AFP, the Philippines’ coastline of 36,000 kilometers (22,370 miles) is eight times more than its land area. Definitely, the BFAR, an attached agency of the Department of Agriculture, needs more patrol boats to augment its 20 existing ones.

    There’s no question on the need for more patrol boats. However, there’s need to guard against the repetition of the controversial purchase of 14 patrol boats in 2001 through a mixed credit financing scheme offered by the Spanish government.

    The DA, then headed by Secretary Ding Panganiban, awarded the contract to Rodman Polyships whose bid of $38.891 million was higher by almost $3 million than of Empresa National Bazan. At the prevailing rate of $1:P50, that meant the Philippines would be paying P150 million more in giving the contract to Rodman. The DA-BFAR PBAC gave higher consideration to technical expertise than to finances so it could award the contract to the higher bidder. There were also questions on why the Technical Committee gave Bazan a rating of 60.61 points, a shade above the qualifying score of 60 points, when it’s reputedly the number one shipbuilder in Europe.

    Panganiban awarded the contract a day before the DA-BFAR PBAC issued a resolution on the bidding. Apparently, he had expected the PBAC to unanimously recommend the award to Rodman. However, the PBAC chairman, then Usec Demaree Raval and member Mildred Mercene did not sign the PBAC recommendation.

    Just the same, the contract for the 14 patrol boats was awarded to Rodman. Senate President Franklin Drilon, who was then chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, sponsored the budget for the purchase of the boats. A source had told me that although the entire purchase price of $38.9 million was paid to Rodman, only four of the 14 boats were delivered to BFAR. There’s no report if the DA had ever asked Rodman to pay back the government for the undelivered 10 patrol boats.

    And where are the four delivered patrol boats now? “Rusting in peace,” according to my source. For the sake of transparency, the Aquino administration should give the people a low-down on this issue. Definitely, there’s much reason to be doubly alert on the new attempt to buy new boats so all doubts on its regularity could be erased. So far, there has been no details on the kind of patrol boats sought to be procured, the total purchase cost, the unit price, the winning bidder and the difference in the bid of the next bidder. Could the winner be Rodman Polyships again?

    The same source said the late newshen Mercedes Esperat was about to write about this controversy when she was murdered at her house. Investigators linked her murder to her exposes on the Department of Agriculture’s fertilizer scam.

    Public Works’ ‘new’ image
    A Manila Times story had this head on Tuesday: “DPWH earned praise for image shift.”

    If only the headline had read “DPWH praised for image shift,” I wouldn’t have questioned it. But “earned?” Our resident expert on public works, fellow columnist Rick Ramos, will certainly raise a howl much louder than I could. Many of his well-read columns had tackled the inefficiency of the DPWH.

    One need only to look at the worsening flood problem in Metro Manila to refute this claim of President BS Aquino The Last that the DPWH has been transformed in the last five years into a model of efficiency. In Lupao, Nueva Ecija, my hometown, it took the DPWH almost an eternity to finish two small bridges. Oh wait, one bridge is still unfinished after almost four years. Talk about efficiency.

    The DPWH is also constructing classrooms at a unit cost of P1.4 million. The Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry can construct one at more than half that cost – and with electricity and toilet to boot. If the government wants to save money, it should award all classroom construction projects to the FCCCI.

    19espiloy47@gmail.com

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