05 Oktober 2010
MANILA: The Philippines has suspended two tenders for military helicopters worth about $90m due to suspicions of graft, the defence department said yesterday.
A Polish firm owned by Italy’s Finmeccanica was poised to be awarded one of the tenders, aimed at upgrading the security forces’ arsenal to deal with insurgencies by Maoist guerrillas and Muslim separatists that have killed 160,000 people and thwarted investment and development in the country.
President Benigno Aquino, who took office earlier this year, has also vowed to crack down on corruption to boost the economy.
Ernesto Boac, a retired general and head of the bids and award committee at the defence department, said tenders for seven attack and two multi-purpose helicopters had been suspended while the defence minister probed possible graft in the bidding.
“There are alleged collusions or conceived collusions between members of those involved in the procurement with some suppliers in the crafting of the technical specifications that suited a particular manufacturer,” Boac told reporters.
Boac said the suspension order covered the post-qualification tests for seven multi-attack helicopters to be awarded to Poland’s PZL Swidnik, which was bought by Anglo-Italian helicopter company Agusta Westland earlier this year. Agusta Westland is owned by Finmeccanica.
“Our action is to defer whatever are the next stages of the bidding process,” he said. Results from the inquiries are due in 30 days.
Last year, PZL Swidnik, then a state-run firm, won a $60m contract to supply eight combat utility helicopters after Agusta Westland dropped out of the bidding.
In 2008, a tender for six night-capable attack helicopters worth $29 million was also scrapped due to alleged collusions between some army officials and US-based MD Helicopters Inc.
Since 2002, the Philippines has spent more $640m to upgrade its weapons and logistics system.