Something’s burning at the BFAR?

"There’s no harm in checking. "



Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol really needs to check on this.

Documents reaching this writer showed that the bidding for the P2.1- billion Integrated Marine Environment Monitoring System or IMEMS of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources conducted last week might have been tainted with some anomaly.

IMEMS is deemed necessary to check rampant illegal fishing in the territorial waters of the country, including the contested reefs, cays, sandbars and shoals in the Spratlys, and the areas in the West Pacific where Philippine-flagged vessels catch fish.

The set of documents allege that the BFAR Technical Working Group had come up with the terms of reference for the bidding of the IMEMS which were said to have been tailor-made for one of the suppliers, SRT Marine Systems, in violation of Section 18 of the Revised Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Government Procurement Law. 

A screen shot of a chat among several personalities who appear to be involved with SRT seems to attest to the veracity of the allegations.

One of the personalities, who goes by the username “countryman5” posted on Jan. 14 this year in ADVPN about a supposed project in the Philippines that SRT is working in.

The post read, “The SRT sales team, headed by ‘ST’ will have spent numerous weeks/months working in conjunction with the Philippine authorities trying to encourage them as to the correct technical way forward… Not only does ‘ST’ drive the sales efforts around the world but he also has to ensure that all the other company ‘plates’ stay up in the air.”

Another post, this time in Jan. 17 this year, coming from one “ramnik007,” seemed confident in bagging the contract, stating it was “SRT specific.”

“Philippine contract does appear to be SRT specific, but even if SRT win(s) the award, the big question is how much delay there will be in getting any money. Implementation time line appears to indicate rapid start, but gov’t departments being generally slow, will ensure delays. Let’s hope not too long,” the post stated.

With rumors of this nature flying before the bids were to be opened last Oct. 30, two bidders reportedly asked for the deferment of the opening of the bidding.

Elbit Systems Land & C4I, Ltd. (ELSC), reportedly asked TWG head John Pagaduan to defer the opening of the sealed bids until Nov. 26, 2018 to allow it to comply with all the bidding requirements and use advanced technology.

On the other hand, Fleet Automation Pte., Ltd. was said to have asked for a deferment of the opening of the bid documents until such time that BFAR could clarify the kind of monitoring it wants, noting that it was strange for the BFAR-TWG to require reports on each ship or each hour or 24 times a day. In fact, the terms of reference was also said to have approved of a delayed reporting up to 24 hours.

According to the documents, Fleet Automation averred the hourly reporting defeats the very purpose of real-time monitoring, which means all vessels can be monitored all the time, although it added that it was amenable to the 24 reports per vessel per day as minimum requirement for the bidders.

The company also raised technical questions on the use of satellite imagery, the application of appropriate communications technology and the ruse of radars and the back-up systems for information storage. 

On Oct. 24, a day after BFAR-TWG stopped entertaining inquiries from ELSC and Fleet Automation, a letter, which is part of the set of documents received by this writer, was sent to Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol to complain that the “technical specifications” for the bid were sent to SRT Marine Systems, whose CEO is James Tucker, ahead of other bidders.

This action, the letter stressed, violates Section 19 (Access to Information) of the Government Procurement Law and Resolution No. 21-2017 of the Government Procurement Policy Board which was promulgated on May 30, 2017.

The letter added that SRT Marine Systems also announced in stock fora that the company will earn much once it secures a big contract from the government of a country in Southeast Asia.

Only the Philippines is currently in the process of bidding out a project described by SRT Marine Systems.

While this complaint still needs to be verified (although reports reaching this writer claim that a formal complaint had already been filed before the Office of the Ombudsman, but this also, has still to be confirmed), Secretary Piñol has to look seriously into this matter before the project is awarded to the winning bidder, thereby avoiding putting the government in a serious disadvantageous position.

There’s no harm in checking. Better be safe than having to suffer under a damaging contract.

Topics: Charlie V. Manalo , Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol , BFAR
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