Six bidders for the construction of an “in-island” power plant in Bohol expressed disappointment over the last-minute order of the Department of Energy (DOE) to move the scheduled submission and opening of bids on January 8, 2021, to February 12, 2021.
Everything was all set for the much-anticipated bidding on Friday at 10 a.m. at Modala Beach Resort in Panglao when the One Bohol Power (1BP) Joint Third Party Bids and Awards Committee (J-TPBAC) formally announced the 11th-hour deferment order of the opening of bid envelopes to the visibly disappointed bidders.
The J-TPBAC is tasked to spearhead and manage the 1BP Distribution Utilities Joint Competitive Selection Process (CSP) for their long-term power supply procurement plan.
1BP is composed of Bohol Electric Cooperatives (Boheco) 1 and II and the Bohol Light Company Inc. (BLCI), distribution utilities (DUs) operating in Bohol.
The six bidders – Solar Philippine Power, ThermaVisayas Inc., First Gen-EDC, Masinloc -San Miguel Corporation, Global Business Power Corporation, and Bohol Hybrid Energy Corporation submitted their financial and technical proposals and paid the P100,000 participation fee before the deadline on January 5, 2021, in addition to the P250,000 bid documents fee.
Nineteen interested firms submitted their Letters of Intent and paid P250,000 bidding fees each on September 11, 2020, signifying their interest to explore the feasibility of building the province land-based power plant to augment the existing 25.2 megawatts (MWs) installed capacity of one diesel and three hydro plants whose meager capacity has been far outpaced by Bohol’s burgeoning power needs.
The representatives of the six bidders who were all present implored the TPBAC to proceed since they found no hindrance for the holding of the bidding process but the TPBAC opted to heed the standing order of the DOE to postpone the submission and opening of bids.
A contentious issue surfaced over the issue of the extension of the payment of the participation fee which the six bidders disagreed considering that it would be unfair for those who strictly complied with the January 5, 2021 deadline.
The bidders were wary that the extension of the submission and opening of bids includes also the lifting of the deadline for the payment of the participation fee which the DOE order was vague.
The TPBAC informed the bidders that their main concern was the deadline for the payment of the participation fee which was on January 5, 2021, but was also moved to February 9, 2021, by the DOE based on the revised schedule as submitted by the TPBAC.
“That is our concern on how we go about it,” said Cecilia Pana, a member of the J-TPBAC. Pana added that they will submit a formal letter of clarification on the deadline for the payment of the participation fee considering that this was their initial position.
This prompted Atty. Wilfredo Bacareza, Jr., President of the Bohol Hybrid Energy Corporation to express his position on the decision of the DOE to postpone the bidding saying “there is a stated principle in law that any change in rules and procedures should apply prospectively, meaning it should only apply to future dates.”
Any change applied retroactively is a violation of that principle in law, according to Bacareza apparently referring to the admission of the J-TPBAC that the extension of the submission and opening of bids to February 12, 2021, included the extension of the payment of the participation fee to February 9, 2021, originally scheduled on January 5, 2021.
Bacareza admonished the J-TPBAC to change schedules prospectively and not alter retroactively to avoid legal challenges.
The J-TPBAC narrated to the six bidders the efforts exerted by 1BP to address the difficult circumstances surrounding the compliance of the bidding process considering the restriction of movements due to the strict health protocols imposed in the province due to the covid-19 pandemic.
The request for revision of the schedules addressed to the DOE started on October 9, 2020, but was denied for the reason that all CSP shall be completed within 5 months from the publication of the invitation to bid until the submission of the purchase supply agreement with the winning bidder to the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC).
Again, on December 18, 2020, in a letter to the DOE together with e-mails and phone calls, 1BP pushed for the revision stating that an “overwhelming number of interested bidders” were facing difficulties in conducting feasibility studies for a plant site selection due to the stringent health protocols.
Finally, on January 5, 2021, the DOE replied reminding 1BP to “wait for the official position of the DOE on the request for the CSP timeline extension.”
1BP responded by transmitting their urgent request for an extension on January 6 and 7, 2021 to the DOE, but received an e-mail on the morning of January 7, 2021, from Thelma B. Ejercito, Officer-in-Charge (OIC) of the Power Planning Development Division of the DOE instructing 1BP to continue their CSP activities while their request was reviewed.
TIRED OF WAITING
Considering the time constraints facing the CSP timeline, 1BP decided to hold the bidding as per the original schedule on January 8, 2021 which was unfortunately postponed by the DOE several hours before the submission and opening of bids with the participants booked in their hotels and went through the rigors of complying with the health protocols on visitors to the province.
One bidder received the news at 11:00 PM on January 7, 2021, as they were in their hotel beds in anticipation of an exciting and challenging bid the next day for the construction of a power plant in Bohol.
After three months, the DOE realized the wisdom of the 1BP request for the extension of the CSP timeline saying, as narrated by Pana of the J-TPBAC that “the revision of the CSP timeline will result in more competitive conduct of the selection process.”
Subsequently, the DOE ordered that the date of the submission and opening of bids will be moved to February 12, 2021 with the contentious issue of the extension for the payment of the participation fee still in limbo.
The winning bidder will supply 83 megawatts to the three DU’s for ten years starting on December 2023 with a power plant in Bohol. (ChitoM.Visarra)