Complaint filed vs DENR officials for air quality monitor purchase

Carolyn Bonquin, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 10 2017 08:20 PM

A consumer group and three other parties have filed a complaint against officials of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), including its secretary, for alleged inaction regarding a defective air quality monitoring system.

The complaint, filed at the Office of the Ombudsman by the United Filipino Consumers and Commuters (UFCC), and others, named DENR Secretary Gina Lopez, consultant Leo Jasareno, and Environment and Management Bureau (EMB) officials Jean Rosete and Teresita Peralta as respondents. 

"These machines would not function, or could not be utilized for the purposes they were acquired, of if these machines do indeed provide us with data , and data would always be inaccurate or cannot be relied upon," the complaint reads.

The EMB, the complainants claimed, repeatedly purchased machines to monitor air quality despite the equipment's inability to provide correct data, real-time. 

The bidding process was also allegedly rigged so that only the company Electrobyte would qualify, the complainants said. 

"The Terms of Reference or the qualification of bidders had been phrased and formulated that it will always result that as early as during Pre-Qualification, only Electrobyte would qualify," they said.

From 2006 until 2010, the DENR purchased eight machines. The purchase was allegedly done without proper market research or performance reports. In 2013, the department supposedly bought 10 more machines.

According to the complainants, the DENR still hasn't investigated the problem, despite dialogues and written correspondence with Lopez. 

"Yung kanyang hindi paggalaw ay inilalagay niya sa peligro ang milyon na mga Pilipino sa usapin ng malinis na hangin. Napakalaki ng problema dyan sa Limay, Bataan. Anong sabi ng EMB? Malalaman niyo ang resulta makalipas ng isang linggo. Pero ang nga makina na ito, dapat kada segundo, kada minuto, kada oras, ito'y dapat nagproproduce ng tama, ekstaktong mga numero para magabayan ang publiko,” said Rodolfo Javella Jr., president of the UFCC.

He added that the DENR should allow others to examine the air quality monitors.

Complainant Manny Galvez said the machines were allegedly never calibrated.

Meantime, Lopez said she does not understand why the complaint was filed against her. She also denied that her office hasn't looked into it, saying the DENR, including the EMB, has already inspected the machines.

“The moment they came that week, we called for a meeting with top EMB people and put the matter there and clearly, I have the directive. I went and saw the machine itself,” she said.

While she admitted that the air quality monitoring systems need to be calibrated, they were fixing the issue.

“I have no evidence on any of my people, why will I sack them if there is no evidence?” she said.

The DENR will have the system calibrated. While it is considering a new purchase, the agency assured the price will be reasonable.