EMPLOYEES of the National Printing Office (NPO) will now work on a 24-hour shift to print the official ballots for the coming May elections.

Commission on Elections (Comelec) Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal confirmed that NPO will go on full blast in printing until they finish all the ballots in April.

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The poll body official ensured that qualified technical people will be at the NPO premises to check on the machines in case of any failure.

“(We have) technical personnel to oversee the machines and the planning of printing is specific to ensure that you don't over-stress the machines,” said Larrazabal.

Four printers and five cutters are being used by the NPO for the printing of official ballots.

The commission has earlier reported that they will be printing first the election ballots to be used for the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (Armm) since it will be longer because of the Arabic translation.

Armm ballots are 27 inches, two inches longer than the rest of the ballots to be used all over the country.

Comelec and NPO have also specified an area in the printing site where political parties and other interested groups may view the printing process.

“The public can visit NPO and see for yourselves the process of printing,” said Larrazabal.

Additional closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras are set to be installed in the premises. Twelve security cameras are currently placed at the area.

The NPO will print a total of 50,723,734 official ballots and will start shipping these on March.

In a related development, Commissioner Larrazabal also reported that the last precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machine has already been produced by its election partner, Smartmatic-TIM.

“We ensure that all PCOS machines will be here by February 21. Smartmatic-TIM has already produced all the machines,” he said.

More than 82,000 precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines will be used for the May automated elections.

The last machine was manufactured last February 8, according to Larrazabal.

“Smartmatic-TIM Corporation has already produced all the machines required for the elections,” he said.

With this, the machines are now just awaiting shipment from China to the Philippines.

Larrazabal said there are already 48,900 units in their Cabuyao, Laguna, where the warehouse is located while another 7,200 are still at the Bureau of Customs.

Another 800 are in transit plus some 25,300 that are ready for shipment.

Under the contract, Smartmatic-TIM will be producing 82,210 pcos machines to be used in the May 10, 2010 national and local election.

Of the figure, 75,471 machines will be immediately deployed to the precincts nationwide while the remaining 6,739 PCOS will be as back up machines.

Larrazabal said they expect the complete delivery of all the machines before February 21.

“We are just making arrangements and all PCOS machines will be here by February 21,” he added. (Kathrina Alvarez/FP/Sunnex)