MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Social Welfare and Development is buying 14 four-wheel-drive pick-ups, not luxury sport utility vehicles (SUVs) worth P24.1 million, and the purchase will push through, DSWD Secretary Corazon Soliman clarified yesterday as she defended the plan.
“We’re not buying SUVs,” Soliman told The STAR in a phone interview.
She said the pick-ups will be used by DSWD regional offices “in the implementation of the 4Ps or conditional cash transfer (CCT) program whose beneficiaries are located in remote barangays and only four-wheel drive vehicles can navigate these areas because of the rugged, steep, and undeveloped terrain.”
“This (funding) is part of the 2009 budget approved by the former president (now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo). This is not even part of the 2010 budget,” Soliman said.
“We are in the midst of the bidding process and we will only open the sealed bids on Oct. 26, but I can assure the public that the DSWD will conform with these rules and the pick-ups that will be purchased will not be luxury vehicles,” she said in a letter to The STAR.
“In the spirit of transparency, the Department has three SUVs that may be classified as luxury vehicles, 3 Hyundai Santa Fe, aged 3 years and below, and all of these are donated vehicles,” she pointed out.
“Under the provisions of Administrative Order 233, series of 2008, entitled ‘Reiterating the Prohibition on the Acquisition and Use of Luxury Vehicles and Directing Revisions of Guidelines on Government Motor Vehicle Acquisition,’ luxury vehicles are those ‘with an engine displacement exceeding 2200 cc, if gasoline-fed; or 3300 cc, if diesel-fed; and with an engine exceeding 4 cylinders’,” her letter read.
Soliman said Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño should have asked her first before releasing statements to the media on the purchase of the vehicles.
The DSWD chief said out of the 41 vehicles in the fleet of DSWD, 25 are already 10 to 20 years old.
“Hence, it is apparent that most or 61 percent of the vehicles should already be replaced. Even the vehicles aged six years, particularly those used to service beneficiaries in rugged and mountainous terrain, are also in need of constant repair,” she said.
“The re-fleeting of DSWD vehicles is part of the agency’s efforts to strengthen our capacity,” Soliman said.
Casiño on Thursday said Soliman was scheduled to award the contract for the supply of four-wheel-drive vehicles to the winning bidder on Wednesday next week. He said the new SUVs would be acquired using proceeds from the $400-million loan that the government has obtained from the World Bank for the Aquino administration’s conditional cash transfer program.
Meanwhile, Soliman also said she would explain next year’s budget program “in greater detail” to Visayas and Mindanao congressmen to help them understand the justification for the allocations.
“Maybe they have not seen the details yet, maybe they have not seen the exact places where it is going, so I think that’s the most important aspect of the explaining,” she said. “If we explain to them a little bit more, and in greater detail, I don't think they will (still) say that we have left behind the budget for the Visayas (and Mindanao),” she said.
Soliman, who attended the “A Harvest of Hope” event of the Negrense Volunteers for Change in Makati yesterday, said she had already met with lawmakers from Negros Oriental, Samar, Leyte and Bacolod.
“Like in DSWD, we have allocated a significant amount to Region 8 (Samar and Leyte) as it is one of the poorest regions and they need more assistance,” she said.
“We explained to congressmen that those with bigger share are the ones with the poorest families,” she added.
Helen Flores, Philippine Star