Thursday, 31 December 2009

We’ll deliver all machines on time, poll supplier vows

Sara Susanne D. Fabunan
Business Mirror

DESPITE being 35,000 short of the original target of 42,000 committed for delivery by the end of 2009, the consortium supplying the hardware for the country’s first nationally automated elections in 2010 stressed on Wednesday all machines will be at the Commission on Elections’ (Comelec) doorstep on time.

Smartmatic-TIM president and chief executive officer Juan Villa sought to allay fears among the Comelec officials and other stakeholders that they may not be able to deliver all the 82,200 Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) voting machines to be used for the May 2010 polls.

In a press briefing during the presentation of the first batch of PCOS machines in Manila, Smartmatic-TIM’s Villa said the manufacturing of the machines will be completed in China by the first week of February 2010.

“[All of them are] ready for shipment [by then]. We were there about two or three weeks ago. It’s a world-class [manufacturing] facility what we have in Shanghai. We won’t have problems with the production,” Villa told reporters.

And to prove they are capable of producing the machines on time, Villa committed to ship to the country close to 10,000 machines on a weekly basis in time for the February 21 deadline of delivery.

“We will be delivering at the rate of 9,600 PCOS units every week, starting next week, until the end of February. Our target is, we will deliver all the 82,000 machines one week ahead of schedule,” Villa added.

On Wednesday five cargo trucks were parked in front of the Comelec office, containing the 4,000 PCOS machines that were presented to the media and personally inspected by Comelec Chairman Jose Melo, Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal and officials of Smartmatic-TIM.

Earlier in the day, an additional 3,200 PCOS machines arrived in Manila following the delivery of the first batch on Monday night.

The Bureau of Customs (BOC) said earlier a vessel of Maersk Line arrived in Manila on Tuesday carrying with it some 1,727 power generators and 3,200 PCOS units.

On arrival, the machines will be immediately stored at a warehouse in Cabuyao, Laguna.

Melo said they will be stored and tested in the warehouse until the time they are shipped to some 40 Comelec regional hubs sometime in April.

“So that they will be nearer the precincts, they will be dispersed all over the country. That is for the facility of deployment on Election Day,” Melo said.

In the memorandum of agreement with Smartmatic-TIM, the poll body leased a total of 82,200 PCOS machines with the second and final batch originally set to arrive by February 2010.

With the arrival of the first batch of PCOS machines, the Comelec’s Melo said their fears about the delays in the machine delivery have been eased somewhat.

“Our level of confidence has gone up. I’ve been telling the Smartmatic-TIM officials ‘I have to see the machines before they get paid anything’,” Melo said.

The Comelec head had earlier said issues of delays in the automated election project were giving him nightmares.

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