‘Parang OA’: Escudero says Senate to review P23-B new building at BGC

Senate President Francis “Chiz” Escudero on Monday, June 10 said the Upper Chamber’s personnel may take a long while before they can transfer to their new building in Taguig City. 

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Senate President Francis “Chiz” Escudero leads the flag raising ceremony on Monday, June 10, 2024, two days before the country celebrates its 126th Independence Day. (Senate PRIB Photo)  


According to Escudero, there is a need to review the New Senate Building (NSB) after learning that the expenses needed for its construction ballooned to P23-billion. 


Escudero expressed shock and disbelief at the unexpectedly high projected costs needed to complete the new Senate building, 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 told reporters in an interview after the flag-raising ceremony at the Senate grounds.


Escudero clarified the matter is not being investigated but is only under “review and inquiry” by the Committee on Accounts. 


The Senate accounts panel used to be headed by Sen. Maria Lourdes Nancy Binay but was given to Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano in the aftermath of a sudden leadership change last May. 


The new Senate leader said they would not be asking Binay for an explanation about the issue, as they are not making any sort of accusation.


But he said, he has already directed Cayetano to suspend payments and construction of the NSB pending the review. 


“Walang pagpapaliwanag na gagawin, walang akusasyon kaming binabato. Review lang at inquiry. Minabuti kong sabihan ang mga kasamahan dito sa Senado dahil baka umaasa sila na ngayong taon or next year magagawa na iyan. Dahil dito maantala muna ng ilang buwan ang paglilipat (No need for explanation, we’re not making any accusation. Just review and inquiry. I made it a point to tell my colleagues here in the Senate because they might think we will transfer this year or next year. Because of this, the transfer would be postponed by a few months),” he said. 


Escudero said the total amount approved for the construction of the NSB was P8.9-billion but this ballooned to P13-billion. 


“At ngayon nga P23-billion. Inaalam pa lang namin pero nais kong sabihin na ito para di umasa na makakalipat na at magiging sapat ba o hindi sa pangangailangan ng Senado (Now it has reached P23-billion. We are still looking into the matter, but I just want them to know so they won’t expect that they can transfer immediately, and whether this would be sufficient or not for the needs of the Senate),” he further said. 


Sen. Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri, former Senate president, had earlier said the NSB would be ready for occupancy by January 2025. 


Binay had also said it was a consensus among senators to move into the NSB in January 2025 instead of their earlier plan to transfer by July 2024. 


During the flag-raising ceremony, Escudero addressed Senate employees about the issues hounding the NSB, particularly about its parking issues.  The Senate chief noted that the NSB also lacked parking space, which is one of the persistent problems they have at the GSIS building where the chamber currently rents space.


“Hindi totoo na makakalipat tayo sa bagong gusali, lupa at building ng Setyembre. Hindi rin totoo na aabot tayo makalipat bago matapos ang taon (It’s not true that we can transfer to the new building by September. It’s also not true that we can transfer there before the end of the year),” Escudero said addressing the Senate employees.  


“Kahit hanggang 2025, sa palagay ko ay hindi pa rin dahil marami pang bagay na kailangang ihanda at maraming bagay din na aming nakita at nagisnan na kailangan pang suriin at pag-aralan (Even until 2025, I don’t think we can still transfer because there are so many things we need to prepare and many things that we saw and we deemed necessary to review and study),” Escudero said.


“Halimbawa na lamang, kung dito mismo sa ating lumang gusali pinoproblema na natin ang parking. Doon sa lilipatan natin wala ring parking. Mas konti pa nga sa mayroon tayo dito. Buti dito may MOA na malapit na pwedeng paradahan, doon ay wala (For example, we have a problem regarding parking in our own old building. We also don’t have any parking in the new building. And it even lacked more parking space compared to what we have here. At least here, the Mall of Asia is nearer and we can park there. We have no alternative there),” he said. 


According to Escudero, he has agreed with all of Cayetano’s recommendations, including identifying immediate and underlying problems in the project and compelling the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to question, evaluate, and rectify issues that can still be corrected. 

In his report, Cayetano explained that the DPWH’s actions will be decisive in determining whether the agency and the contractor, HillMarc’s Construction Corporation, will implement the remaining portion of the project.


The said project has an approved budget of P10.33-billion but is yet to be awarded.