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By LESLIE ANN G. AQUINO / January 11, 2010, 5:07pm

Smartmatic-TIM, the consortium that won the automation contract for the May 2010 elections, said it has already finished manufacturing at least 45,000 Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines that will be used in the crucial political exercise.

''We have delivered to the forwarding companies over 38,000 machines. They are no longer in our factory. They are already in the hands of the forwarding companies and what?s going on is that they need to negotiate with different shipping companies so they can put those machines in their ships,'' said Cesar Flores, Smartmatic International Corporation Asia-Pacific President.

The finished machines are aside from the 7,200 PCOS machines that Smartmatic-TIM had already delivered to the country last year.

Last week, another batch of 8,000 PCOS arrived in the country. The machines are being stored in a warehouse in Cabuyao, Laguna.

Flores also gave assurance that the total 82,200 PCOS machines will all be in Manila in time for the elections.

''They will be here exactly when we need them to be here,'' he said.

Given the current work pace in their factory in China, Flores said, production of the 82,200 PCOS machines may already be finished by the end of the month.

''The last production will be done by closing of January. So by (end of) January, all the machines would have been produced and we would have started the process of forwarding,'' he said.

The machines are critical for the success of the country's first ever fully automated elections. Previous elections have all been marred by charges of widespread cheating, vote-buying, ballot snatching and other irregularities that put to question the very legitimacy of those in power.