MANILA, Sept. 12 (UPI) -- The Philippines has stopped the bidding process for the purchase of second-hand Huey UH-1 helicopters for a third time, the Manila Bulletin reports.
The Department of National Defense announced the halt after only one supplier put in a bid to supply the Bell UH-1 Iroquois -- unofficially called Hueys -- helicopters.
The Huey is powered by a single turbo-shaft engine with a two-bladed main rotor and tail rotor.
But the DND said it hasn't given up on buying 21 combat Hueys within its allocated budget of about $28.8 million, the Bulletin reported.
"While it is unfortunate that we have to declare the [failed] bidding, we're still going to pursue the implementation of this project," National Defense Undersecretary for Finance, Munitions, Installation and Materiel Fernando Manalo said.
The purchase is essential for the air force because of the deteriorating condition of many Hueys now in service.
The lone bidder for the project was the joint venture of Rice Aircraft Services and Eagle Copters.
But the joint venture was declared ineligible due because it failed to satisfy some documentary requirements, the Bulletin reported.
Defense officials will ask the air force to recommend how it now wishes to pursue the acquisition.
"It should be the end user who will have the final say after what happened," Manalo said."It can be a negotiated procurement."
Whichever route the air force goes down, the National Defense Department will make sure the government gets best value, he said.
"And we will do it very, very fast this time," Manalo said.
The air force already operates Huey helicopters equipped with machine guns it uses for troop transport and logistics evacuation of casualties during disaster-and-relief operations.
The Bulletin said bidding for the helicopters also was stopped for similar reasons in February and, prior to that, in December.
The Manila Standard Today reported Maj. Gen. Raul Dimatactac saying failure to get sufficient supplier bids was a blow to the air force.
"The 21 [helicopters] are very important to our inventory in the 205th Tactical Helicopter Wing in order to effectively respond not only to requirements of the armed forces but [other] agencies," the vice commander said.
He said the helicopter wing has only 21 Hueys in operation.
"Our 205th Tactical Helicopter Wing used to have four squadrons and a squadron is composed of 24 helicopters," Dimatactac said.
The air force needs 96 Hueys, but has only 76 in its inventory.
"Of this number, 33 are beyond repair and 22 are recoverable. We have only 21 operational at present.," Dimatactac said.
"That's why we badly need to procure the 21 UH-IH1 helicopters."
He said the air force originally asked the defense department for 45 Huey's last year.
The Philippine Star newspaper reported Friday that eight firms, apart from the Rice Aircraft and Eagle Copters joint venture, had expressed interest in bidding for the contract.
The other companies were Radom Aviation Systems, Serpenair Group Inc./Bell Helicopter, St. Aerospace Engineering, Stone of David Tactical Equipment, Overseas Aircraft Support, Aerospace Engineering Group and Philjets Aero Services/Vector Aerospace.