MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines defense department vowed to look into the crash record of EADS Casa Airbus military, the only qualified bidder in the P5.3-billion aircraft acquisition project for 3 medium lift fixed wing of the Philippine Air Force (PAF).
The Spanish firm committed to supply the miltary 3 C295 planes for P5,288,609,983.99 or lower than the approved budget.
C295 is like a smaller version of the already familiar C130, which saw action in the Zamboanga City siege and government response to Typhoon Yolanda. It has an open ramp at the backside to allow troops an easy drop from above. It can carry up to 9 tons of payload or up to 71 personnel. C130s can carry up to 120 personnel.
EADS Casa's C295 figured in at least one recent fatal crash and reports of defective aircraft. These incidents were reported in the media following the second bidding held last week. (READ: Only one bidder qualifies for military's P5.3-B aircraft deal)
Defense Assistant Secretary Patrick Velez said fatal crash incidents involving Airbus Military's C295 will be evaluated as the Spanish firm enters the post-qualification stage, a process where the Philippines determines its capability to supply the aircraft.
"This should not be part of the bidding process but we exercise our responsible authority to be able to determine the instances of fatal crashes which were reported in leading newspapers," Velez said before fellow members of the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) on Monday, January 20.
Velez presented the explanation of EADS Casa to the 2 incidents reported in the media. In 2008, at least 20 were killed when Casa's C295 crashed in Poland. Investigation reports showed that it was caused by pilot error.
"In 2012, the Polish Air Force ordered an additonal batch of 5 of C295 showing their confidence with the safety and effectiveness of C295," Velez said, reading EADS Casa's letter.
In 2012, Casa's C295 also figured in a different controversy when the Czech military returned the aircraft because of some defects. Its DAS anti-rocket systems and the plane's navigation systems were found defective. When the aircraft couldn't be repaired, EADS Casa was forced to replace them. EADS Casa submitted a company report that the Czech military accepted the replacement aircraft.
Investigation will continue, Velez said. "What would be important is the examination of the causes of the fatal accidents, whether these fatal accidents were caused by human error or by the failure of the equipment itself to perform in optimum condition under given environment," Velez told the committee.
"At present, we cannot offer conclusion for the moment except that we will continue to verify accidents involving C295 during post-qualification," he told the BAC members.
The BAC team that will conduct post-qualification stage is expected to fly to Spain on February 1 and aims to finish its probe by February 8. Without hitches, the project could be awarded to the Spanish firm by the end of February.
If all goes well, the first of the 3 C295 aircraft will arrive by August 2015 or earlier.
Denied: Losing bidder offers bonus aircraft
EADS Casa Airbus Military proceeds to the post-qualification stage as the BAC on Monday denied motions filed by 2 losing bidders for the committee to review its decisions.
Losing bidder PT Dirgantara Indonesia was disqualified because, among other reasons, the planes (CN235) it offered did not comply with the DND requirements. It is smaller than the C295.
In its appeal, the state-owned firm offered to supply 4 aircraft instead of the required 3 to compensate for the deficiencies of its planes.
But Velez dismissed it. "Specifications cannot be changed at the late phase of the project," Velez said. "While the request was laudable, it was not feasible to say yes to compensation by limitation," he added.
The BAC supported Velez's arguments. The Indonesian firm's motion for reconsideration was denied.
Velez also threatened PT Dirgantara Indonesia with possible "administrative sanction" or "blacklisting." Knowing the technical requirements of the aircraft project, he said the Indonesian firm should not have submitted its bid knowing that its planes are not qualified.
Under bidding laws in the Philippines, a participating bidder that offers disqualified products at least 3 times could be blacklisted.
Another losing bidder, Italian firm Alenia Aermacchi, wrote the BAC letters to investigate possible collusion between the Spanish and the Indonesian firm. The two firms apparently have an earlier sub-contracting agreement involving the CN235 aircraft.
The BAC also dismissed the allegations as "insufficient to establish conflict of interest or establish collusion."
It is normal for corporations to have a subcontracting agreement. Velez said similar situations were seen in previous bidding processes. The Spanish and Indonesian firms did not offer similar aircraft and have no similar controlling shareholders.
Alenia Aermacchi joined the first bidding, where there was no qualified bidder. It offered its ATR 42 aircraft. It also bought bid documents for the second bidding but it did not participate.
"I suspect what Alenia wants is for us to stop procurement. We cannot stop without acceptable justification," said Velez. – Rappler.com