MANILA, Philippines - Some congressmen had meddled in the procurement of P500 million worth of modern weather radar equipment that could have enabled the weather bureau to make accurate forecasts, which in turn could have saved lives and property.
Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr. and Rep. Angelo Palmones of the party-list group Agham revealed this yesterday when asked what went wrong with the acquisition by the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) of Doppler radar systems during the Arroyo administration.
“Magulo yan, mga congressman ang backers ng bidders kaya natagalan (That’s a mess, congressmen backed some bidders, that's why the bidding was delayed),” Andaya said in a text message.
He was budget secretary of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2006 when PAGASA tried to start the bidding process for five Doppler radars.
He said the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), to which PAGASA is attached, had asked the procurement service of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to conduct the bidding.
“But DOST could not provide us the terms of reference (TOR) and technical details due to the interference of some congressmen who wanted to favor their suppliers. The TOR and the technical requirements would come from the DOST because they are the user. We would just conduct the bidding for them,” he said.
Andaya said after two years of waiting in vain, the DBM returned the bidding process to the DOST in 2008.
Palmones told The STAR that the DOST asked the DBM to conduct the bidding after Leoncio Amadore, then Pagasa director, was accused of irregularities “in connection with a radar that could be upgraded to a Doppler system.”
He said he was then part of a non-governmental organization helping Pagasa in its equipment modernization program. He was also then a radio broadcaster. He is a first-term congressman.
Palmones said at least two congressmen were interested in the contract for five Doppler radars that Pagasa would acquire with a P500-million fund appropriated by Congress in 2005.
“One was pushing for an American supplier. The other had a Chinese contractor,” he said.
Like Andaya, Palmones refused to name names.
The Agham representative said it was Prisco Nilo, who became Pagasa director in 2007, who finally pushed for the bidding for the Doppler radars in 2008.
“But none of the five has been installed. Installation of one in Subic and another in Tagaytay City is supposed to be completed this month. The three others are to be located in Virac, Catanduanes, in Cebu and another area in the Bicol region,” he said.
He acknowledged that early installation of the modern radars could have saved lives and property.
Scores of lives and property worth billions of pesos were lost last year when “Ondoy” and “Pepeng” struck the country.
President Aquino recently replaced Nilo for his supposedly inaccurate weather forecasts.
In a text to reporters yesterday, Nilo said when the “funds for the Doppler radar systems were released in 2006, the DOST decided to have the bidding conducted by the procurement service of DBM.”
“Nothing happened for more than two years, so DOST decided to have the bidding done by Pagasa during my time,” he said.
He said the bidding was conducted in the last quarter in 2008.
“The implementation as provided for in the contract is 18 months for each radar,” he added.
The Doppler radar is said to be capable of measuring rainfall, which conventional radar could not predict.
According to Wikipedia, this type of radar “is a specialized radar that makes use of the Doppler effect to produce velocity data about objects at a distance.”
“It does this by beaming a microwave signal towards a desired target and listening for its reflection, then analyzing how the frequency of the returned signal has been altered by the object's motion. This variation gives direct and highly accurate measurements of the radial component of a target’s velocity relative to the radar,” it said.
Besides weather forecasting, Dopplers are also used in aviation. They were named after Austrian physicist Christian Doppler.
Jess Diaz, Philippine Star