Gina Lopez faces complaint for ‘defective’ air monitoring machines

Lian Buan
Gina Lopez faces complaint for ‘defective’ air monitoring machines
After meeting with Lopez in August, complainants are frustrated that nothing has been done to address the issue

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – A case was filed before the Ombudsman on Tuesday, January 10, against Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Gina Lopez for supposedly ignoring information that the agency’s air quality monitoring machines are defective.

The complaint filed by the Air Board Company and the United Filipino Commuters and Consumers (UFCC) alleged that the Open Path Differential Optical Absorption Spectroscopy, an equipment used to monitor air quality, purchased by the DENR’s Air Quality Monitoring Section (AQMS) sometime between 2006 and 2013, does not produce accurate data.

Complainant Manuel Galvez of Air Board said he was allowed last year by the previous DENR administration to inspect one of the machines.

“Hindi real time ang datos, ‘pag sinabi mong real time, at this very moment kapag dumating mula sa analyzer maglalabas agad siya pero ang nangyayari ang kumukuha sa datos ay electronic logger na ibabato muna sa cloud pupunta pa muna ng Sweden bago bumalik,” Galvez said. (Data is not real-time, when you say real-time, the moment it comes to the analyzer it should produce data but what is happening is, data is being filed through an electronic logger which goes to the cloud, passes through a server in Sweden, before it comes back here.)

Air Board further claimed that EMB-AMQS conducted its own inspection but shelved findings.

Representatives from the Air Board Company met with Lopez on August 2, 2016 to discuss crucial findings on the equipment’s performance.

The Air Board Company claimed that the machines are an outdated model from 1996, not calibrated properly, and producing inaccurate data. 

Investigation ongoing

Lopez said she launched an investigation into the complainants’ claims as early as August and has suspended procurement of the same machines in the meantime.

“We are not buying any until we are sure the technology is accurate and appropriate. They are absolutely held accountable. I have zero tolerance for corruption,” Lopez told Rappler in a text message.

She said all 52 of DENR’s air quality monitoring machines bought before her time are installed and working, but admitted that there was faulty calibration that result in inaccurate data.

“My instruction to EMB people was to do whatever it takes to give me good data,” Lopez said.

The complaint does not specify a case, but prays for the filing of criminal and administrative charges against Lopez and nominal respondents Jean Rosete and Teresita Peralta, who led the Environmental Management Bureau’s (EMB’s) procurement in 2006.

Rift between former colleagues?

Although Lopez wasn’t with the DENR when the agency procured the machines, the complainants are holding her accountable for failing to addrress the issue despite her knowing about it.

“Nagkaroon na ng dayalogo noong August, mismong si Secretary pinagalitan niya mga empleyado niya. But that was August, pero anim na buwan na, anong iniisip natin, na dini-dribble tayo? Huwag naman sana,” complainant Rodolfo Javellana of the UFCC told reporters. (We already had a dialogue in August when the Secretary herself scolded her employees. But that was August, it has been 6 months, we can’t help but think they’re playing games with us. I hope not.)

Lopez dismissed the charges as being a demolition campaign against her following a falling-out with certain individuals involved in the filing of the complaint.

“These machines were bought 11 years ago. That’s several Secretaries before me. It’s madness to fault me for the purchase 11 years ago. I question their motives,” Lopez said.

The groups refused to respond to Lopez’ allegations and said they would rather stick to the issue.

Ang sabi ng ating Presidente kung kayo ay merong alam na hindi ginagawang mabuti, kayo ay magsumbong, kaya sinisimulan na namin ang pagsumbong,” Javellana told reporters when they filed the complaint. (The President said to come forward when we know of any wrongdoings inside his government, so here we are coming forward.)

The complainants also alleged that bidding was rigged to favor DENR’s supplier Electrobyte, the exclusive distributor of DOAS in the Philippines.

“To date, the country, not even the Metropolitan Manila Area, does not have real time and accurate report on air quality,” the complaint said. – Rappler.com

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Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.