"There is a literal power struggle happening on Bantayan Island in Cebu."
This one’s for the books.
Let us go over to Bantayan Island in Cebu province where a literal power play is unfolding at the moment to the amusement of disinterested parties and the consternation of biased observers.
The key actors in this real-life drama are the current holder of the contract to energize the island which incidentally is set to expire in November 2021, and its upstart adversary but obviously heavily favored by the Bids and Awards Committee.
It goes without saying that the incumbent franchisee—Bantayan Island Power Corp. (Bipcor)—has the existing infrastructure as a power distribution utility and therefore, would have no problem sustaining Bantayan’s power supply.
On the other hand, the consortium of Vivant Industrial Diesel Corp. and Gigawatt Power Inc. has the trimmings of a well-oiled corporation hence, ready and eager to do business in the fast-growing island.
If you think that the bidding, held in July last year, was above-board and the bidders dealt with fairly and squarely, you have another thought coming.
Upon opening of the first envelope containing the technical offers for the 15-megawatt project, the third party bids and awards committee (TPBAC) created by the Bantayan Island Electric Cooperative Inc. (Banelco) disqualified Bipcor based on a minor ground, to say the least—technicality.
The bidding panel said one of Bipcor’s submissions, a supplier’s certification was not notarized, hence unacceptable, and ground enough for outright disqualification.
On that note, the TPBAC eventually declared the Vivant-Gigawatt consortium as the winning bidder.
Wait! Shouldn’t it have been a failed bidding since only one bidder is qualified? CSP rules or the Competitive Selection Process mandates that there should be two qualified bidders.
But of course, Bipcor felt it was given a raw deal. Bipcor was aghast, so they raised a howl of protest. They felt cheated in what was supposed to be a transparent and even-handed contest.
However, their protestations and motions for reconsideration turned out to be exercises in futility. The TPBAC would have none of their objections.
Henceforth, the TPBAC made life even more difficult for Bipcor, changing the rules in the middle of the game, so to speak.
The changes included specs of new generators which is next to impossible to accomplish by Bipcor who, being the current power distributor, claims using relatively new generators and were not yet due for replacement in the not so distant future.
So it came to pass that Banelco and the purported winning bidder that answered to the name Isla Norte Electric Corpo. or INEC submitted a joint application with Vivant-Gigawatt Consortium for approval by the Energy Regulatory Commission of their 15-year power supply agreement (PSA) that was meant to supplant Bipcor’s 15-year contract.
Wait a minute there. If memory serves, it was the Vivant-Gigawatt consortium that took part in the bidding and was questionably declared the winner by the TPBAC.
INEC surprisingly popped into the picture.
Now, suddenly, out of nowhere, it was INEC that went with Banelco to the ERC for the regulatory body’s stamp of approval on their PSA.
Wasn’t the switch of parties to the contract a clear violation of the rules of the bidding, or the CSP if you may?
The TPBAC nonetheless maintained it was perfectly all right and within the bounds of the CSP and pertinent laws. What nonsense.
Bipcor insisted that it was indeed a blatant infraction of the rules and pertinent statutes, including the constitutional guarantees on equal protection of the laws. Hence, a formal petition questioning the validity and legitimacy of such irregular acts was filed with the courts of law by the offended bidder.
INEC was not a party to the bidding process, so how come it is the winner? Your guess is as good as mine.
Meanwhile, it is up to the courts, including the High Tribunal, to decide who is right and who is wrong.
The waiting game is on, folks.
But personally, I find it annoying, baffling and disconcerting to learn that the scale of justice as it is held by the TPBAC weighed heavily on one bidder at great expense to the other bidder.
The TPBAC summarily and arbitrarily disqualified Bipcor over an incredibly faulty reason of a document not being duly notarized by a lawyer thereby totally ignoring Bipcor’s argument that such notarization was not even in the bidding rules.
And then, the TPBAC allowed the switch of parties from the consortium to INEC which is explicitly disallowed by the CSP rules, and maybe, the judicial protocols.
I believe that graft charges are an incident waiting to happen in the Bantayan power struggle. Let’s see how this plays out in Bantayan’s power struggle.