Chopper bidding declared a failure

MANILA, Philippines - For the third time, the Department of National Defence (DND) on Friday declared a failure in the bidding for 21 refurbished Huey helicopters for the Philippine Air Force.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines had allocated P1.26 billion for the acquisition of second-hand UH-1H choppers, more popularly known as "Hueys," a military utility helicopter which the US military used during the Vietnam War.

Defence Undersecretary Fernando Manalo said the DND might consider entering into a negotiated deal after the lone bidder, the joint venture of Rice Aircraft Services Inc. and Eagle Copters Ltd., was disqualified due to documentary deficiencies.

Since the DND special bids and awards committee (SBAC) failed to award the contract after conducting three public biddings, Manalo said all the bidding documents would be returned to the Air Force.

"Immediately, we will direct the Philippine Air Force to make a study and recommend whether or not to pursue the acquisition," Manalo told reporters after the two-hour bidding procedure.

"It should be the end-user which will have the final say after (the failed bidding)," he said.

The defence undersecretary said the SBAC should consider ways to pursue the acquisition programme which, he said, must be "premised on what is most advantageous to the government."

"It can be a negotiated procurement. As I have mentioned, the consideration will always be what is really the best for the government, and we will do it very, very fast this time," he said.

Manalo said he was "very sad" that the procurement of the Hueys had been delayed given the importance that helicopters play in military combat operations as well as disaster response operations.

"Honestly, I feel very sad because you all know that around 20 typhoons enter our country every year and these helicopters are the primary equipment that the Air Force uses in responding to calamities," he said.

"It's really disappointing, but the important thing is that we are not disregarding the (policies) stated in Republic Act No. 9184," he added, referring to the Government Procurement Act.