Lacson OK with Senate’s plan to review cost of new building but…

Former senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson on Monday, June 10 welcomed the new Senate leadership’s plan to review the actual cost of the New Senate Building following Senate President Francis “Chiz” Escudero’s announcement.


But Lacson, who formerly headed the Senate Committee on Accounts before Sen. Maria Lourdes Nancy Binay, clarified questions regarding the Department of Public Works and Highways’ (DPWH) cost estimates on the building that had to be factored in during the construction. 


“While I agree with Senate President Francis Escudero's decision to review the new P23.3-billion cost of the Senate building from the original P8.9-billion estimate when we started the construction, I would like to clarify the following:

The DPWH is the implementing agency so it submits cost estimates and VOs (variation orders),” Lacson said in a statement.


However, at the end of the day, the former accounts chief said it is the Senate that as the authority whether to accept or not the proposed additional budget allocations of the DPWH.


“What I understand, based on my own inquiry with my former staff/team of consultants who eventually joined Sen. Nancy Binay who succeeded me as the Senate Accounts Committee Chairperson under Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri—not a single peso of the P10.3-billion additional funds, while already part of the 2024 GAA (General Appropriations Act) and covered by MYCA (Multi Year Contractual Authority) has been awarded since Sen. Nancy and her team have consistently objected to the DPWH’s requests for VO’s,” he said.


“Further, the new total cost of P23.3-billion includes the cost of the fit-out accessories and technical components of the security system as well as the land acquisition which was valued at that time at P1.62-billion (at P90,000 per square meter) and has since tremendously appreciated in value,” he further explained. 


“I understand, and this may not be accurate that the current real estate value in that same area is P500,000 per square meter,” he recalled.


Lacson also said the NSB features a multi-level basement parking provision to accommodate senators, their staff and employees. 


“I’m not sure if it was modified,” he said.


But Lacson said he has to check some details regarding the senators’ office spaces in the NSB.


“Regarding the information on the senators’ office spaces in the new building, I will have to check since I acceded to Sen. (Aquilino) Koko Pimentel’s request to accommodate at least 65 regionally elected senators in case the proposed amendment of the Constitution would materialize at that time,” he pointed out.


“So, I cannot imagine that offices in the new Senate building could be smaller than the GSIS building presently occupied by the Senate,” Lacson said.


Escudero, in an interview during Monday’s flag raising ceremony announced to Senate employees that they would be unable to transfer to the NSB anytime soon as there is a need to review the project after learning that the construction expenses ballooned to P23-billion. 


Escudero expressed his shock and disbelief at the unexpectedly high projected costs needed to complete the NSB noting that these expenses are particularly hard to accept given the economic crisis faced by most Filipinos.


“Hindi naman kwestiyonable; na-o OA-n  lang ako. Nakakagulat at masama sa panlasa na gagastos ng ganito kalaki ang Senado para sa aming bagong tahanan at opisina (It’s not questionable; I just find it over-acting. It’s surprising and it leaves a bad taste that the Senate is going to spend this huge amount of money for our new home and office),” Escudero said.