“(B)ecause the winning supplier is a newcomer who beat the BFP’s regular suppliers, pinahihirapan sila to the point that the notice of award has been delayed by more than a year and might even be scrapped altogether.”
by Ducky Paredes
Every year, thousands of fire incidents occur all over the country. Last year, the figure was over 8,000 fires, over a hundred lives lost and billions of pesos up in smoke.
This brings us to a logical conclusion that fires will continue to happen and we have no choice but to beef up efforts to improve firefighting capabilities to save lives and minimize the impact on those affected.
We are far behind our neighbors in firefighting capability. No less than President Benigno Simeon Aquino III highlighted this fact when in a speech in Concepcion, Tarlac he said:
“The Philippines needs to double the number of fire engines or fire trucks in the country; we are barely at 49 percent. We have, on average, fire trucks as old as 20 years old; and that’s the average age. Hence, there is really a need to come up with more and more of this very necessary service for the people.”
He then went on to highlight the reforms that had been instituted in the Department of Interior and Local Government which resulted in the transparent bidding that was done on the acquisition of fire trucks which brought down the cost to half.
The bidding of the fire truck purchase brought down the price of each unit from P9M to just P5 million. The President explained: “The last bidding that was done prior to our assumption was about three years ago. The average price for the fire trucks acquired then was nine million per unit. The rebidding in 2011 resulted in fire trucks costing us five million per unit—half of what they used to cost. Therefore, with the available budget, we can double what we will be able to acquire.”
The President was referring to the bidding that was conducted by the DILG for a total of 76 fire trucks (one bidding was for the 8 1500-gallon trucks and the other was for 68 trucks).
For the first 8 1500-gallon fire trucks, five suppliers/proponents joined the bidding and the Joint Venture of Kolonwel Trading and Korean firm Hubei Jiangan Special Automobile Co. Ltd. was declared the winning bidder for offering the lowest bid of P5,989,898.00 each of the 1500-liter fire trucks for a total of P47,919,184.
With this bid, the government stands to save P2,854,214 since the contract cost was pegged at P50,773,398.
The Joint Venture of Kolonwel Trading and Korean firm Hubei Jiangan Special Automobile Co. Ltd. also won the bidding for the 68 units of fire trucks since it submitted the lowest bid of P301,450,730.64 or around P5 million per fire truck. With this bid, the government saved P114,868,999.11 since the original contract was set at P416,319,729.75.
With the savings, the government would be able to buy 28 additional fire trucks.
The BFP also had earlier conducted a bid on the acquisition personal protective equipment for its firemen. For offering the lowest bid of P242.350M, Kolonwel/Hubei JV also won the bidding.
The series of successful biddings conducted by the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) Bids and Awards Committee marked a renewed optimism in government firefighters who for years had to make do with outdated and inferior equipment.
After the being informed that it had the lowest calculated bid, Kolonwel/Hubei JV heard nothing more from the BFP.
With the President himself endorsing the contract, it seemed to the winning bidder that the way was now wide open for the easy and speedy acquisition of fire trucks.
How wrong they were!
The Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) disapproved the BAC recommendation awarding both contracts to the Kolenwel-Hubei JV.
The BFP then transferred the procurement process to the Department of Budget and Management with the approval of Robredo. This paved the way for the re-bidding of the contract.
On the 2nd week of February 2012, Go Cheng received a letter from BFP informing him that the bidding of the 8 fire trucks had been transferred to the DBM based on BFP Resolution No. 2011-41 dated December 28, 2011 because the winning bid of Kolonwel/Husei JV had been disapproved by BFP Officer in Charge Samuel Perez.
After the disapproval of their won bid for 8 fire trucks, Kolonwel was again informed that their winning bid for the personal equipment was also being disallowed because of two supposed violations – failure to submit the required English translations of documents written in Chinese language as certified by the appropriate foreign embassy in the Philippines and failure of Kolonwel to submit the required past income and business tax payment returns filed electronically with the Bureau of Internal Revenue’s Electronic Filing and Payment System (EFPS).
Go Cheng explained that all the documents in Chinese submitted by them were accompanied by English translations made by officially authorized notaries public in China, authenticated and certified correct by the Consular Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China and then further authenticated by the Philippine Embassy/Consulate in Macau.
On the failure to file tax payments electronically, Go Cheng explained that the winning bidder is the Kolonwel/Hubei JV which is a new joint venture. As such, the requirement for electronically filing of tax returns does not apply. Kolonwel for its part is EFPS registered and has electronically filed its tax returns.
“Perez deliberately confused and labeled Kolonwel Trading, singly, instead of Kolonwel/Hubei JV, as the winning bidder, so he could find fault in respect to compliance with the requirement for submission of electronically filed tax returns,” Go Cheng explains.
He says that the unilateral and arbitrary disapproval of their winning bid by Perez tarnished their reputation especially with the media campaign to discredit Kolonwel. Kolonwel is a trading business engaged supply contracts with government for 32 years. “We have built a solid and reputable background in supply contracts. And this is being done to us when we are offering the government the best equipment at the lowest price,” Go Cheng laments.
“There is obviously a concerted effort to discredit my company. But the winning bidder here is the JV of Kolonwel and Hubei. Hubei is one of the biggest manufacturers of fire trucks in China. Over the years, Kolonwel has successfully partnered with reputable international companies in bidding government supply contracts in Deped, NFA and Pagcor,” he said.
He added his firm had won government contracts in an honest and above board manner and successfully concluded without any major controversy from concerned government agencies.
But more than Kolonwel’s reputation, Go Cheng said the arbitrary disapproval of the winning bid and the shelving of the awarding of the contract highlight the seemingly lack of concern of government officials in making sure lives are protected.
The recent fire in Ever Gotesco Mall underscores the need to upgrade our firefighting capabilities to make them more responsive to the demands of the time.
“Our fire trucks are old, our equipment outdated. Our firemen are in a pitiful situation when they could have better gadgets. The Filipino people deserve better service. Our preparedness will make a difference between saving lives and losing one. But efforts to improve our system are being hampered. Our President has the best intention when he lauded the program. We should not let politics and the old bata-bata system get in the way of his reforms,” Go Cheng said.
His sentiment was shared by Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casino who slammed the delay in the purchase of fire trucks and firefighting equipment. He said the losing bidders who are old-timers in the BFP are the ones raising a howl because they were beaten by Kolonwel who is considered a newcomer in the bureau’s bidding system.
Casino notes that “because the winning supplier is a newcomer who beat the BFP’s regular suppliers, pinahihirapan sila to the point that the notice of award has been delayed by more than a year and might even be scrapped altogether.” Casino is right that this — the scrapping of a proper bidding and the subsequent delay in the award of the contract for the supply of fire trucks and equipment should be investigated in the Lower House.
They also ought to find out: Are we still on the Daang Matuwid? Or, are we back to, first, lining our pockets, just as before?
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hvp 03.29.12Readers who missed a column can access www.duckyparedes.com/blogs. This is updated daily. Your reactions are welcome at email@example.com