After second-hand helicopters, we will have imported second-hand fire trucks, if Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo is not dissuaded from pushing through with the deal. The importation was already rejected by the Arroyo administration, but with the takeover of the Aquino administration, the lobbyists went to work again and now have Robredo in their clutches.
The Rosenbauer fire trucks to be imported from Austria is not only refurbished but more expensive than Philippine-made fire trucks that the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFD) has been using for years. Philippine-made fire trucks cost only P9 million each; the imported fire trucks will cost more than P20 million each, more than double the price of Filipino-made units.
The present deal will import 76 fire trucks for P1.3 billion (Robredo wants to eventually increase this to more than 1,000 units, one for each municipality) plus added costs. Maybe what convinced Robredo to pick the Austrian trucks is the fact that the Austrian government will lend the money to buy the fire trucks. But that loan will earn interest. So although the acquisition cost for each truck is listed as P17.5 million, it would balloon to P20 million each. And because they are imported, taxes and duties will amount to around P185 million. Project administration cost will be another P13 million, more or less. The total real cost for the 76 units will be more than P1.5 billion. Divide that by 76 units, and the cost will come to more than P20 million per unit. Compare that with the P9-million price tag of locally manufactured fire trucks with two engines, one for the truck, another for the pump. The imported units have only one engine running for both the truck and the pump.
What’s more, the local fire trucks have a lifetime service and spare parts guarantee, because the manufacturer is right here. The imported ones have none.
How many imported fire trucks do we have that look nice sitting in the fire stations, but when there is a fire, they cannot even leave the station. They are out of order. And they remain so for months and months, and sometimes even for years or permanently because there are no spare parts available, or it is too expensive to import the spare parts, or nobody knows how to repair them.
No such problem will happen with the locally manufactured fire trucks because their manufacturers are right here. And where is the patriotism of Robredo? Whatever happened to the Filipino First policy? That is not a mere slogan. Robredo’s move is clearly anti-Filipino, which is abhorred by the Constitution and by existing laws and guidelines.
The deal is going to be investigated by a House committee on the basis of two House resolutions authored by Agham Party Rep. Angelo Palmones and Antipolo City Rep. Romeo Acop.
Said Palmones: The deal “will not only kill the domestic fire truck industry, (it) will also adversely affect local manufacturers, dealers and builders of cab and chassises, parts and accessories, fire pumps, water tanks, and throw thousands of Filipino workers out of job.”
The proposed importation has already been rejected by the BFD and by the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) for being “onerous.”
Documents submitted to the House panel showed that despite the rejection of his proposal, Robredo still insisted on procuring imported PTO-engine driven fire trucks, thus discriminating against and disqualifying the Filipino-made independent auxiliary engine-driven fire trucks. Why Mr. Secretary? Why do you love the Austrian fire trucks so much?
The BFD has scheduled a public bidding for the supply of fire trucks on Sept. 30 but the specifications are clearly in favor of the Austrian fire trucks. That bidding would be a “lutong makaw.”
But for many years already, the BFD has been patronizing the tropicalized Filipino-made fire trucks. These are specifically designed to suit the needs, terrain and fire conditions in the Philippines. They are also backed up by lifetime service warranty and guaranteed spare parts availability, which are wanting in imported fire trucks.
One of the justifications given by Robredo for his preference for the Rosenbauer trucks is that it is supposedly advantageous in terms of spare parts availability. This is clearly outrageous. Robredo doesn’t seem knowledgeable at all about fire trucks concerns. Rosenbauer fire trucks are Austrian-made. It is ludicrous to say that their spare parts are easier to obtain in the Philippines than the spare parts of local fire trucks. Investigation showed that spare parts of Rosenbauer fire trucks are not available in the local market for obvious reasons.
This is also true of service centers. The “Austrian-Assisted BFP Capability Building Program” study itself reveals that the Philippines is not among the tropical countries that have purchased Rosenbauer fire trucks in the past. Hence the Philippine market has yet to establish service and spare parts stations for the Rosenbauer fire trucks.
Furthermore, the technical specifications of the proposed Rosenbauer trucks are not based on advanced technology. Note that the first proposal was made as early as 2004 and what was used as a basis for the latest proposal was the March 25, 2007 revised specifications of Rosenbauer 1,000-gallons-capacity fire trucks. In other words, the fire trucks that are being offered are either reconditioned or brand new fire trucks with lower technological and technical specifications.
In justifying his proposal, Robredo made comparisons with the local fire trucks. He is degrading the local fire trucks and this is obvious in the latest specifications he required: all fire truck procurement of BFP must be imported PTO-engine driven fire trucks only. Why, Secretary Robredo?