The proposal to convert the new Senate building into a modern hospital should be left to the discretion of the next batch of senators after the 2022 elections, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said on Saturday, as he also disclosed that its construction has already been delayed due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
Sotto was asked in a radio interview to comment on the proposition supported by Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo to reconsider the construction of the new Senate building in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City, and turn it into a “five-star hospital” instead.
“Tanungin niyo ‘yong susunod na Senate President sa 2022, sa 19th Congress. Wala na akong pakialam doon (Ask the next Senate President in 2022, in the 19th Congress. I won’t have anything to do with it anymore),” he told DWIZ.
“Hindi na ako aabutin, na-delay tayo dahil sa pandemic eh…Wala na akong kwarto doon ikinalulungkot ko (It will not be completed under my term, we were delayed due to the pandemic. I won’t have a room there, unfortunately),” he jested.
Senator Panfilo Lacson, chairman of the Committee on Accounts that is handling the planned transfer of the Senate from Pasay City to Taguig, confirmed this information also on Saturday.
From the July, 2022 initial target, the “new indicative completion date [for the new Senate building] is April, 2023,” his office told the Manila Bulletin.
“Bahala na ‘yong susunod na Senate, 19th Congress na Senate (It’s up to the next Senate, the Senate under the 19th Congress),” Sotto said.
In his commentary program, Panelo questioned the ongoing construction of the new Senate building when the government was supposedly scrambling for funds to finance the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines and assisting displaced workers and poor families.
“This is not the time to construct a Senate building,” Panelo said.
Senate leaders have repeatedly defended the construction of the upper chamber’s P8.5-billion complex inside the Philippine Navy Village in Fort Bonifacio. The complex will occupy a 18,320 square meter land with four 11-storey towers.
Since 1996, the Senate has been paying rent to the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) for its office, and to the Social Security System for the use of its parking lot in Pasay City, amounting to P171 million, as of 2019.
Lacson had said that once the new building is finished, the government would save resources since the Senate will no longer have to pay such rental fees.
In 2018, President Duterte said he had no objections about the Senate’s plan to have its own office.