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Body armor deal teeters

THE Department of National Defense may terminate the P1.40-billion body armor contract it awarded to an Israeli company if it fails to deliver the first batch of 20,000 units on June 29, an official said on Tuesday.

DND public affairs director Arsenio Andolong said the supplier had already asked for a contract extension of 120 days to complete the order.

Other DND sources said there is still no travel order for members of the Technical Inspection and Acceptance team to conduct a pre-delivery inspection of the body armor, or ballistic vests.

“We have a process to follow and this is required by law. This delay in the delivery of the ballistic vests is grounds for a termination of contract when the 120 days extension has ended and they fail to deliver the first tranche,” Andolong said.

The contract for 44,080 units of ballistics vests for individual soldiers is one of the “big-ticket items” in the modernization program of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and was awarded to JV Archidatex and Colorado Shipping in 2013.

Since the firm was not able to make the first scheduled delivery on February 26, the DND Contract Termination and Review Committee imposed a penalty of 10% liquidated damages.

But the failure of the supplier to deliver the first batch of body armor was kept secret until defense insiders leaked the matter to the media.

Among DND officials who are knowledgeable of the matter, only Andolong agreed to be interviewed but he also declined to give more details because he was not authorized to speak about the project.

Aside from Archidatex, other companies that participated were Kolon Global Corporation of South Korea, UM Merkata of Israel and MKU of India.

But Kolon and UM Merkata were disqualified during the post-qualification stage. Kolon protested the disqualification even though it submitted the lowest bid of more than P800 million.

Despite its protest, however, the contract was eventually awarded to the JV of Archidatex and Colorado shipping.

Meanwhile, Senator Teofisto Guingona III said he wants DND officials to answer the “serious and potentially damaging allegations” by whistle-blower Rhodora Alvarez over the alleged anomalous    purchase of 21 refurbished UH-1 helicopters.

Alvarez had earlier accused defense officials of “tailor-fitting” the terms of reference for the said purchase to help Rice Aircraft Services Inc. (RASI) bag the contract for the supply of the helicopters.

Guingona said the accusations contained in an affidavit submitted by Alvarez were disturbing and DND officials should answer them.

He cited in particular the allegations based on email exchanges Alvarez said she made with DND officials.

Among these is the purported email to Alvarez allegedly sent by Technical Working Group chair Brigadier General Conrado Parra where he supposedly discussed issues on delivery and payment schemes.

In the purported email, Parra allegedly said “I don’t think they will allow that but still this can be discussed in the negotiations.”

“I just don’t know how far they can go in bending rules,” Alvarez quoted Parra.

Alvarez also alleged that Parra had another exchange of email with the original RASI representative, Thac Nuyen, where they discussed how RASI can be considered qualified to deliver the purchased helicopters.

He also linked DND Undersecretary Fernando Manalo and Assistant Secretary Patrick Velez to the alleged exchange of emails.

He has already given all concerned parties copies of the Alvarez affidavit.

“I am giving DND officials and executives of RASI ample opportunity to refute the allegations hurled against them in the Alvarez affidavit,” Guingona said.

 

  

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