The Senate should reconsider the construction of its new building in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City as the government scrambles for funds to buy vaccines and provide aid to pandemic-hit sectors, according to Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo.
Panelo said he agreed “1,000 percent” with former Presidential spokesman Rigoberto Tiglao that the planned new Senate home should instead be converted into a modern hospital to help treat patients infected with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
The project, which reportedly costs P8.9 billion, had its groundbreaking at the Navy Village in Fort Bonifacio in March 2019.
“This is not the time to construct a Senate building, spending P5 billion to P9 billion kasi ang target daw nila tuloy-tuloy daw ang construction,” Panelo said during his “Counterpoint” program Friday, Feb. 19.
“Can you imagine? Naghahanap nga tayo ng pera para sa bakuna. Nangungutang nga tayo. Kailangan natin ng pera, ayuda doon sa mahihirap, nawalan ng trabaho. Pagkatapos magpapagawa tayo ng Senado, ubod ng laki, three towers pa nakita ko ‘yung design (We are looking for funds for vaccines. We’re even borrowing money. We need the money for assistance to the poor, those who lost their jobs. Then here we’re building a huge Senate building, three towers based on the design I saw),” he added.
Panelo said he plans to appeal to his “friends” in the Senate to pull back from the project and make do with their current office in Pasay City.
If more people get wind of the Senate project, Panelo warned about its impact on the fate of senators who will seek re-election.
“Marami sa inyo ang re-eleksyonista. Baka mag-react yung mga elektorado sa atin. Siguro huwag na muna. Okay pa naman ‘yang Senate building natin (Many of you are re-electionists. The electorate might react to that. Maybe not now. Our Senate building is still okay anyway),” he said.
Panelo echoed Tiglao’s suggestion to transform the planned Senate building in Taguig City into a medical facility to enhance the country’s health care system.
He cited that the country could emulate China that swiftly built two large hospitals in Wuhan City to deal with patients infected with the coronavirus last year.
“‘Yun kaya ang gawin natin. Sa halip na five-star building, eh five-star hospital tayo (Let’s do that. Instead of a five-star building, let’s build a five-star hospital), so we can boost our response to pandemic,” he said.
“Convert na lang natin sa malaking ospital para dadami ‘yung ating bed capacity tapos lahat ng mga high-tech na medical equipment, mabili na natin (Let’s convert it to a huge hospital so we can increase our bed capacity and we can buy all the high-tech medical equipment),” he added.
The planned new Senate building will occupy a 18,320-square meter land with four towers, 11 floors each and three basements with 1,200 parking spaces.
The complex is expected to completed next year.
At present, the Senate pays an annual rent of around P100 million for a portion of the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) building in Pasay City.