BLACKLISTED helicopter supplier, the joint venture Rice Aircraft Services Inc. and Eagle Copter Ltd., has been using facilities of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) for the refurbishment of UH-1 helicopters since last year and the company has not paid the military a single centavo, a source said on Sunday.
The source codenamed “Joey” disclosed that PAF, through instructions of an official of the Department of National Defense (DND), allowed RASI to use three of its hangars at Clark Air Base in Pampanga province, north of Manila, without executing a contract.
“RASI has been using three bays in Clark Air Base Bay-1, Bay-2 and a fixed hangar since June last year for the refurbishment works on the UH-1 helicopters,” he said.
The choppers were part of the P1.2-billion UH-1 helicopter project, between the DND and RASI under the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for the acquisition of 21 refurbished UH-1D helicopters.
“Joey” said RICE started using the hangars on June 22, 2014 upon arrival of the first four helicopters in Manila.
The source noted that the use of hangars alone is already a violation of the helicopter contract because it was specifically stated in the agreement that it should be “delivery at place.”
It means that the helicopters must already be operational and ready for test flight upon delivery, removing the need for the contractor to use the PAF hangars and conduct refurbishment works, “Joey” explained.
“Even if the units were semi-knockdown, it would only take the supplier two to seven days to assemble the units. However, RASI used the hangars for several months,” he said.
The worst part, “Joey” added, is that RASI was able to use the facilities for free because there was no contract executed regarding the use of the hangars.
According to him, the Air Force, upon the instructions of the DND official, entered into a deal with RASI, allowing the supplier to use the hangars for a fee.
For unknown reasons, however, no contract was signed.
Besides the hangars, RICE also used the machine shop and some equipment of PAF.
But when the Air Force tried to bill RASI for the use of the facilities, the supplier refused to pay.
“Since there was no contract, the PAF cannot oblige the RASI to pay. PAF could have earned P3 million to P5 million from rental fees,” “Joey” pointed out.
Even with the recent decision of Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin to terminate the helicopter contract with RASI, according to the source, the supplier still continues to use the hangars.
The source named Col. Florante Amano, Assistant Chief of Air Staff for Logistics (A4) as among those who knew about the deal and could shed light on the issue further.
“The absence of a contract on the hangar deal between PAF and RASI is highly suspicious and it should also be tackled in the Senate investigation. That is disadvantageous to the government, and a violation of existing laws,” “Joey” said.
The Senate blue ribbon committee will start its investigation of the controversial chopper deal on May 4 (Wednesday) in a bid to determine if procurement deals are in accordance with the AFP modernization program.