Agri chief urged to recall overpriced ice-making machines

by Gerry Albert Corpuz and Billy Javier Reyes, senior reporters, The Pamalakaya Times

Manila, Philippines- Leaders of the militant fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) and Anakpawis party list on Monday urged Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap to recall the department’s purchase of 98 units of ice-making machines, which the group said was overpriced by P 2.3 million per unit.

Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap said the agriculture department through the National Agribusiness Corporation (NABCOR) awarded the government contract to a lone bidder—the Integrated Refrigeration System and Services (IRSS) on September 2, 2009, which will sell the ice-making unit at P 4,650,000 per unit, or about P 2.3 million higher compared to prevailing industry price for the ice-making machine.

“In the name of national interest and public trust, Secretary Yap should immediate revoke the contract because it is highly disadvantageous to the national government and to the taxpaying public. Imagine we will pay more than P 233 million of hard-earned taxpayers’ money to the preferred client of Malacanang. This is too much and super corruption to the highest order,” added Hicap.

The Pamalakaya official said the government will pay IRSS the sum of P 455,700,000 for 98 units of ice-making machines with liquid freeze capability which will be supplied to selected municipal fish ports nationwide. But the group said the government can obtain 98 units of ice-making machines for P 225 million to P 230 million, or half of the quoted and agreed price with IRSS.

“P 225 million is P 225 million. That sum of money can be used to finance any kind of sinister agenda or cruel intention by the present power holders in and out of Malacanang. The money might also be used to finance the electoral campaign of Mrs. Arroyo’s national and local bets in 2010 elections. This is money making in aid of electoral campaign for 2010 polls,” added Hicap.

Anakpawis secretary general Cherry Clemente said Secretary Yap is lawfully and morally bound to explain why the agriculture department entered into a contract that is disadvantageous to the government and to the Filipino public.

“Do we really need these ice-making machines? Our fisherfolk members all over the country were not even consulted on these projects, but these ice-making machines had already their icing on the cake status as far DA and its’ favored contractor are concerned. Secretary Yap owes the public a honest-to-goodness explanation, nothing more, nothing less,” the Anakpawis official said.

According to information gathered by Pamalakaya and Anakpawis party list, NABCOR conducted a preliminary bidding last August 26, and IRSS which won the bidding, was only incorporated on August 25, a day before the preliminary bidding was conducted.

The groups said under Republic Act 9184 (Procuring Law), Section 37.1, the bidder must submit a copy of its single largest completed contract over the past 3 years, and such condition is impossible for IRSS, which was only incorporated on August 25, this year, a day before the preliminary bidding. The contract was finally awarded last Sept.2.

Pamalakaya gave at least Secretary Yap a week to issue a memorandum calling for the revocation of what the group a highly irregular and extremely anomalous contract, adding that the agriculture secretary can do it even in one day.

The militant group threatened to file a plunder case against Secretary Yap and other officials of NABCOR if they fail to cancel the contract with IRSS in connection with the corruption tainted procurement of 98 units of ice-making machines pegged at P 4.6 million per unit.

“They have a week them a week or two to correct this multi-hundred million peso mistake. If they will not do their job, then we will take this case before the Office of the Ombudsman and have them charge of plunder and violations of anti-graft and corrupt practices act along with their private clients,” Pamalakaya said.

Aside from Secretary Yap, Pamalakaya said it will include in the plunder charge sheet the top officials of NABCOR namely Alan A. Javellana, President; Romulo A. Relevo, Chairman of the Bids and Awards Committee; Dennis Lozada, Winston Azucena, Melody de Guzman and Encarnita Cristina Munsod, all members of Bids and Awards Committee, and owners and operators of IRSS.

Earlier, Allan V. Ragasa, a complainant had filed charges against Sec. Yap and officials of NABCOR and officers of IRSS headed by its chairman Alexander Leung before the Office of the Ombudsman in relation to the questionable awarding of contract to IRSS. The complaint in violations of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and RA 9184 was filed on Nov.18, 2009. #

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