J. Albert Gamboa-125


THE business climate in the country has improved somewhat over the past two months. As COVID-19 cases are going down in the National Capital Region coupled with an accelerated vaccine rollout, the short-term economic outlook foretells a merrier Christmas 2021 compared to last year’s bleak holiday season.

For companies in essential industries such as power and energy, this means good news since a further reopening of our consumption-driven economy would translate to higher revenues. Case in point is South Pacific, Inc. (SPI), a liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) company that has steadily risen in industry rank from the time it started operations in 2015 up to the current pandemic era.

In the first quarter this year, SPI’s total volume of 105,049 metric tons jumped 22.2% over the 85,988 metric tons recorded during the comparative period in 2020. Its market share also rose to 24.0% in January to March 2021 from the year-ago level of 18.7%, when it was only ranked third behind Petron Corp. and Liquigaz Philippines Corp.

By the end of 2020, both Liquigaz and SPI had overtaken Petron to capture the top two positions in the LPG industry at 23.6% and 22.2%, respectively. They were neck-and-neck in terms of market share during the first quarter of 2021 with Liquigaz at 24.4%, slightly ahead of SPI’s 24.0% share. At the rate SPI is growing, it would be just a matter of time before it becomes the market leader in a highly competitive industry.

Factional infighting is not only confined to the ruling coalition after PDP-Laban acting president Senator Manny Pacquiao broke ranks with the party vice chairman, Energy Secretary Al Cusi, regarding allegations of corruption in the current administration.

Over at the state-run Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO), a crisis is brewing after the mass resignation of the agency’s special bids and awards committee (SBAC) members, who conducted the public bidding of the P6.5-billion supply contract for the Nationwide Online Lottery System project.

The five SBAC members are not withdrawing their second resignation submitted last month to the PCSO board of directors chaired by Anselmo Simeon Pinili. “It was an irrevocable resignation. They cannot force these people to do what they think is against their will. These are veterans and experts in government procurement laws. That’s why they resigned for a second time,” said a PCSO officer who has knowledge of the issue.

It was learned that five SBAC members, of whom two are lawyers and another two are engineers, jointly submitted their letter of irrevocable resignation last June 25. This developed after the PCSO board allegedly ordered them to reverse their second disqualification of the bid submitted by the Chinese-led joint venture (JV) of Genlot Game Technology Co. Ltd., Digi-Specs IT Corp., and Philippine United Technic Corp.

Previously, the Genlot consortium had been disqualified but supposedly upon board instructions, the SBAC members reversed the first disqualification with serious misgivings followed by their verbal resignation, which they were persuaded not to pursue by the board. The second resignation came after they were summoned to a board meeting where they felt “marginalized” and “unfairly reprimanded” by Mr. Pinili and PCSO Director Ramon Seneres.

PCSO General Manager Royina Garma told reporters at a recent press conference that the board resolved the impasse through a resolution not to accept the mass resignation of the SBAC members. It may be recalled that two groups submitted tenders in the bidding conducted by PCSO last April 20. One is a combine of the two existing PCSO lotto equipment suppliers, Philippine Gaming Management Corp. (PGMC) controlled by Filipino-Malaysian listed holding firm Berjaya Corp., and listed gaming technology operator Pacific Online Systems Corp. (POSC) along with US-based International Lottery & Totalizator Systems, Inc. (ILTSI).

After the Genlot-led group’s bid to supply new lotto machines was disqualified, the PGMC-POSC-ILTSI megaconsortium was declared the lone qualifying bidder. The former protested and paid a non-refundable protest fee of P6.5 million. Acting as the Head of Procuring Entity, the PCSO board ruled in favor of the disqualified consortium.

Upon further evaluation, the SBAC again disqualified the bid of the Genlot JV, which paid a second non-refundable protest fee of P6.5 million. This protest was likewise elevated to the PCSO board, which again ruled to overturn the SBAC decision — prompting the resignation of the five SBAC members.

What will happen next to the popular lotto operations from which the PCSO generates a considerable portion of its revenues? Would this impasse affect the state lottery firm’s health programs and medical assistance funds aimed at uplifting the social welfare of indigent Filipinos?


J. Albert Gamboa is the chief finance officer of Asian Center for Legal Excellence and co-chairman of the FINEX Week Committee. The opinion expressed herein does not necessarily reflect the views of these institutions and BusinessWorld.