Government procurement laws hamper local gun makers

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — High-quality firearms, from handguns to rifles, are manufactured right here in Metro Manila.

United Defense Manufacturing Corporation produces everything from .45-caliber, M1911-style pistols to assault rifles in Parañaque City Company chairman and chief executive officer Gene Cariño told CNN Philippines Thursday that other countries are beginning to recognize Philippine-made firearms.

But while the company is able to supply guns to foreign governments, it ironically has limited access to local firearm-procurement projects.

Although the Philippine National Police (PNP) said is open to use locally manufactured assault rifles if the supplier can comply with the government's bidding procedures, UDMC failed to qualify for the bid to supply around 27,000 assault rifles to the PNP because of requirements that local manufacturers cannot meet.

Instead, an American company got the contract, which reports said is in danger of being cancelled because of alleged human-rights violations in the Philippines.

Related: Dela Rosa: Arms deal with U.S. still a go

Gusto namin sumali, pero hindi kami eligible because kung ibi-bid out nila yang 26,000 rifles, wala tayong track record on single largest contract (SLC) unless we partner with a foreign company who already possess that 50 percent SLC,” Cariño said.

[Translation: We want to join, but we’re not eligible because if they bid out those 26,000 rifles, we don’t have a track record on single largest contract unless we partner with a foreign company who already possesses that 50 percent SLC.]

The Government Procurement Law states that prospective bidders must have had a previous deal that's equivalent to half of the approved budget for the government contract. For the PNP's ₱2 billion rifle deal, a bidder must have had a previous rifle contract worth at least ₱1 billion just to qualify.

Even the Government Arsenal, the agency mandated to manufacture defense articles for the military and other law enforcement agencies, said it has the skills to manufacture rifles, but does not have the technology to do it.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson is urging the government to manufacture its own guns, but the Government Arsenal said doing so may take time. As of now, it only manufactures ammunition for short firearms.

“New machineries, yes, ito manufacture na ito [New machinery, yes, for manufacturing],” said Government Arsenal Director Jonathan Martir. “This is part of our modernization program since 15 years ago. Unfortunately, it did not push through.”

In the meantime, local firearm manufacturers are calling on government to ease procurement rules for local companies.

Dapat seryosohin ng Kongreso natin ang pag-amyenda sa batas,” Cariño said. “Sapagkat unwittingly, this law favors big foreign companies, hindi sariling atin.”

[Translation: Congress should seriously consider amending the law. Unwittingly, this law favors big foreign companies, not our own.]

Cariño said sourcing firearms locally will ensure ready after-sales service.

“Kung halimbawa yung mga baril ng AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) kailangan i-repair nasa Visayas, wala namang problema,” he said. “One to one-and-a-half hour flight lang ‘yan, nandon na mga gunsmiths natin. We can repair it immediately.”

[Translation: If, for instance, the guns of the AFP that need to be repaired are in Visayas, there’s no problem. Our gunsmiths can be there after taking a one-to-one-and-a-half-hour flight. We can repair it immediately.]

Aside from providing jobs, Cariño said buying locally would prove that Philippine-made firearms are world class – given the right opportunity.

CNN Philippines Digital Producer VJ Bacungan contributed to this report.