MANILA - The Philippine International Trading Corp. (PITC), a state trading firm led by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), denied Wednesday that it was keeping "parked funds" and commissions from the planned procurement of COVID-19 vaccines.
The firm released a statement in the wake of allegations at a Senate hearing Tuesday that there were funds long kept at the agency and that it was undertaking procurement outside its mandate.
PITC said it does not have such funds nor is it collecting commissions from sourcing the vaccines, asserting that it is a self-sustaining state-owned firm and that it only charges service fees on successful project deliveries.
These service fees are institutional in nature and are allowed under its charter, the company added.
"We’d like to assure our esteemed law-makers 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," said PITC president and CEO Dave Almarinez in a statement.
He said the agency is not involved nor has it been officially tapped yet for the procurement and negotiations for the COVID-19 vaccine.
“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," Almarinez said in a statement..
He said all policies surrounding the vaccines will come from the task force headed by vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez and from President Rodrigo Duterte.
PITC is open to the Senate's call for a public hearing on the matter and to cooperate and present all documents that may be asked of them.
“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.
The PITC chief said they will not tolerate the company being a parking lot for idle public funds.
The PITC, a government-owned and controlled corporation, was established via a presidential decree in 1973 to trade with other economies and has since been "at the forefront of leading trade activities by implementing facilitative trade-related services and responsive business solutions," according to its website.
It is an attached agency of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and is tasked to help businesses and agencies benefit from international trade and "ensure the most efficient and cost-effective procurement services" and "contribute to the price/supply stabilization of goods and services."
Almarinez said the PITC's chairman of the board, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, will ensure that the sourcing of quality vaccines will remain at fair prices.
The agency also cited some of its successful procurement, which include the following:
- P786 million in essential equipment for the Philippine Air Force
- P892.3 million in infrastructure projects for the Bureau of Fire Protection
- P627.4-million fully delivered projects for the Philippine National Police
The state-led company said it has a total of P492.6 million in outstanding projects, not P1.3 billion.
Of the P492.6 million, around P468 million are under active procurement while the rest are under post qualification and expected to be awarded and implemented by the end of this year.
“We would like to reiterate that the 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.