POSTSCRIPT / July 17, 2008 / Thursday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Palace not interested in those behind TCRI?

QUE HORROR!: For the benefit of readers who caught only the tailend of the horror story about a fledgling firm with a paid-up capital of P62,500 and zero technical track record but was awarded a P956-million coal supply contract, we recall a few details.

The lucky company is the Transpacific Consolidated Resources Inc., with an authorized capital of P1 million of which only P62,500 was paid up by its five incorporators. It was issued a certificate of incorporation in October 2007 by the Cebu office of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

As agent of Indonesian firm PT Marsitero Marloan, TCRI was invited on Feb. 12, 2008, by the National Power Corp. to bid to supply three lots of 65,000 metric tons each of various grades of coal for the Napocor’s power plant in Pagbilao.

Last March, TCRI bagged for its Indonesian principal the coal contract at a price of P956,374,204.50.

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MOVING AROUND: The TCRI incorporators are: Leslie Ducut, Ressie Ducut (Fil-Am), Lilia Yolanda Tuadles, Wilfredo B. Tuadles and Lorna Arceo (Fil-Am). Each of them put in only P12,500 to enter the world of coal trading.

Per its sworn declaration filed with the SEC, its principal office is on P. G. Almendras St., Danao City, in Cebu. It appears that it was initially operating from the house of its chairman and general manager, Wilfredo B. Tuadles.

A local politician, Tuadles ran but lost when he sought a provincial board seat in May 2001 and again lost in the gubernatorial race last May 2004.

Using a home address may be akin to doing business from a PO Box, but TCRI later moved its office to the lobby of the Danara Hotel on Panay Ave., Quezon City. Danara is a bit better than Danao as it is nearer the National Power Corp., its benefactor.

Last we heard, TCRI has moved to the Atlanta Center on Annapolis in Greenhills, San Juan. What its real owners should do first, I think, is raise its paid-up capital from that embarrassing P62,500.

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THREE LOTS: The Napocor’s Approved Budget for Contract for the coal procurement was $120/mt (for production grade), $125/mt (performance grade) and $127/mt (high GCV performance grade).

Using the average price of $124/mt, the total 195,000 mt of coal would cost $24,180,000 (or P984,561,240 at P40.718 = $1).

On March 5, the contract was awarded to “JV of PT Marsitero Marloan Prakarsa and Transpacific Consolidated Resources Inc.” at a total price of $23,487,750 (or P956,374,204.50 at P40.718 = $1).

The documents we have show that the supply was bid out and awarded in three lots of 65,000 mt each — not four lots as somebody in Napocor says apparently to make it look bigger and justify spending nearly a billion pesos for it.

* * *

JOINT VENTURE: While the invitation to bid was addressed to the Indonesian firm “c/o TCRI,” the Napocor letter to Tuadles confirming the award lumped the two groups together as a joint venture (JV).

Reminds us of the infamous P1.3-billion contract for vote-counting machines that the Commission on Elections bought in 2003 but never used because the Supreme Court struck down the deal as illegal.

In that bizarre case that signaled the fall of then Comelec Chairman Benjamin Abalos, Mega Pacific eSolutions Inc. was the bidder. But the poll body — finding that the firm did not have the required track record — awarded the contract to a hurriedly formed “Mega Pacific Consortium” that was not the bidder.

Abalos tried salvaging the deal by saying that the original bidder (incorporated just 11 days before the bidding) had improved its financial and technical status when it entered into a consortium or joint venture with a Korean partner dealing in voting machines.

* * *

WHY THE AGENT?: In the Napocor deal, was TCRI’s lack of financial and technical capability cured by its acting as agent, later as partner, of the Indonesian coal supplier?

And, btw, was the alleged joint venture ever registered as such to give the group a juridical personality to engage in business, enter into contracts and sue and be sued?

One wonders why Napocor did not, in the first place, invite and accept bids directly from suppliers — like Marsitero Marloan for instance. Indonesians cannot speak English and do not know how to write letters and send email?

Why the need for an undercapitalized Filipino agent whose fat commission will just add to the ultimate cost of the fuel and the price of Napocor electricity?

We have seen from other bid invitations sent out by Napocor that it had directly invited foreign coal-supply companies, many of them Indonesian, WITHOUT any Filipino partner hanging on and adding to the cost.

* * *

RUNNER BUSY: Since the three-month-old TCRI and its five owners were/are clearly not in the coal trading league and would not normally be able to land a big contract on their own, there must be influential personalities behind them.

Who are they? I’m sure Napocor knows those operating in the background.

It might interest critics and plain kibitzers alike to know that a runner of somebody in the House committee on energy has been making frequent trips to Indonesia, home base of Marsitero Marloan.

If the Arroyo administration is not interested in knowing the key operators behind TCRI and in finding ways to lower the cost of electricity, we long-suffering consumers are.

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of July 17, 2008)

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