The Philippine International Trading Corporation (PITC) welcomed calls to initiate a public hearing on Senate allegations that it maintains idle funds in behalf of various government agencies in order to circumvent auditing and budgetary obligations. 

In a statement, PITC President and CEO Dave M. Almarinez said there was no basis to denigrate the agency as unworthy to be the government’s procurement arm in the acquisition of COVID-19 vaccines. 

“We should not be seen as a threat or hindrance to the vaccination program because we don’t even have the power to choose which vaccine to buy. We are not involved in any way in the decision-making process. All policy recommendations on the supply of COVID-19 vaccines will emanate from the newly-formed task force headed by former General Carlito Galvez, and of course, our President,” the PITC official said. 

“We’d like to assure our esteemed lawmakers that we are not a valet service for obligated but unused funds of various government agencies. Neither do we operate a parking lot to gain commissions on the side,” he said.  

The PITC has records to show that it has reverted back to the National Treasury all unutilized funds of client-agencies covering the periods 2019 and prior years and fully liquidated funds utilized for the procurement of goods and services for those years. 

According to Almarinez, vaccines for COVID-19 are not in their current list of products to be negotiated and procured. “While we would like to and are willing to help and lend our expertise, we have yet to be officially tapped to handle this service,” he said. 

Having no role yet on the government’s COVID-19 vaccination program, the PITC is surprised to hear lawmakers sounding off some misgivings about the agency. 

“We are puzzled by the barrage of reports that all of a sudden seek to denigrate our institution as unworthy to be the government’s procurement arm of choice in relation to the COVID-19 vaccines,” Almarinez said.  

Almarinez said the PITC chairman of our Board, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, as an active member of the IATF, will ensure that a fair price for quality vaccines would be obtained so that a great majority of Filipinos can gain immunity from this virus. “This is clearly where the national interest lies and we hope that we can all unite behind this noble cause,” he said. 

Almarinez said the name of PITC has been once mentioned in relation to the vaccines as a potential borrower from the Land Bank of the Philippines and the Development Bank of the Philippines to defray the cost of procurement while following the national procurement law.  

But recent reports have quoted Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez as saying that the government was seeking P73.2B, roughly USD 1.52B, from the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, state-run banks, and bilateral sources to fund the purchase of the medicines. 

PITC is not privy to all these plans and is focused on its mandate, which includes helping government agencies with their procurement needs. 

“The PITC has been around since 1973 and our personnel is known for their hard work and integrity. They are dedicated civil servants with unblemished records and we fully intend to keep it that way,” Almarinez said, adding that they would be happy to voluntarily submit all documents and cooperate in every way with the Senate to ensure that the PITC’s role in government procurement and trade negotiations are more clearly understood by the public and government decision-makers. 

“We are always open to suggestions on how to make things even better so we can do our share in securing the best products and services for our people through our partner-agencies.” 

Undersecretary Almarinez also wanted to clear other issues, including the return of about P103 million to the PNP due to non-submission of the Terms of Reference, which proves that the PITC will not tolerate being used as a parking lot for idle public funds. 

Among other issues that the PITC president wishes to clarify are the following:  

1. PITC, as a procurement agent, does not receive commissions arising from procurement transactions from its client-government agencies. It charges service fees, which are institutional in nature and are allowed under its Charter.

Service fees will only be generated after successful award and full delivery and acceptance of the project.

The Terms of Reference (TOR) and the specifications of which goods or services to procure do not emanate from the PITC, but from government agencies seeking their assistance.

2. The PITC is a self-sustaining GOCC. It does not rely on government appropriations for operational needs. It was established in the 70s when the government took the lead in trade negotiations for both imports and exports.

With trade liberalization in the 90s, there was a paradigm shift from government as chief trade exponent to enabling and empowering the private sector to take the lead.

In 1987, President Corazon Aquino issued Executive Order No. 133 which mandates the Corporation to “collaborate or associate in joint venture with any person, association, company or entity, whether domestic or foreign, in the fields of production, marketing, procurement and other related businesses (emphasis supplied).

A prime example of how government procurement through the PITC benefitted the general public was when the agency took the lead in bringing in more affordable, quality generic medicines. Government procurement is clearly within the legal mandate of the PITC, as it has been so for more than a decade.

3. The PITC has also successfully procured a total of P786M essential equipment for the Philippine Air Force while for the Bureau of Fire Protection, infrastructure projects amounting to P892.3M are either on-going project implementation or already under various stages of active procurement.

4. For the PNP, the PITC records show that P627.390M worth of projects been fully delivered and completely liquidated. Outstanding projects amounting to P492.594M and (not P1.3B) as earlier reported. Out of the P492.594M, P468M are under active procurement and P24.594M are under post qualification and expected to be awarded and implemented by the end of the year.

“We would like to reiterate that PITC is on track for the completion of the procurement projects and all funds are all accounted for. We appeal for reason and impartiality because it would be unfair to all if the COVID-19 vaccination program is already being pulled down even before it has a chance to rise above everyone’s expectations.” Almarinez said.♦

Date of Release: 25 November 2020