Work on new Senate office halted as cost rises

Work on new Senate office halted as cost rises

By: - Reporter / @MRamosINQ
/ 05:15 AM June 11, 2024

BILLION-PESO PROJECT The newSenate building being built in Taguig as of July last year based on a photo posted by the Department of PublicWorks and Highways (DPWH) on its Facebook page. —PHOTO FROMDPWH

BILLION-PESO PROJECT The new Senate building being built in Taguig as of July last year is based on a photo posted by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) on its Facebook page.

MANILA, Philippines — Senate President Francis Escudero expressed shock on Monday at the supposed ballooning cost of the new Senate building being built in Taguig City, whose initial budget of P8.9 billion in 2019 has allegedly soared to P23.3 billion.

But Escudero, who took over the chamber’s top post on May 20 after initiating a coup that ousted his predecessor, Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri, quickly clarified that he was not accusing the latter of any wrongdoing.


He said he had already ordered a suspension of the construction work, which would further delay the completion of the 11-story building that was designed by American engineering and architectural firm Aecom.


READ: New Senate building ‘on target to open for partial operations by July 2024’ – Nancy Binay

“It’s not questionable. I just found it too excessive,” Escudero told reporters after attending his first flag-raising ceremony as Senate President.

“It’s shocking and leaves a bad taste in the mouth that the Senate will be spending such a huge amount for our new home and office,” he said.

READ: Nancy Binay hits gossip, fake news about new Senate building

“[But] I don’t see any irregularity,” Escudero stressed as he added, “I repeat. I’m not making accusations against anyone. I was just surprised, and it’s difficult to swallow that the Senate is spending that much [in] public funds.”

The contract for the Senate’s future home was awarded to Hilmarc’s Construction Corp., the same company that the senators had investigated for the allegedly graft-ridden construction of the P2.3-billion Makati City Hall Building II.


The public bidding for the multibillion-peso project was done during the time of then Senate President Vicente Sotto III.

From the initial approved budget of P8.9 billion, Escudero said the project cost went up to P13 billion, although an additional P10.3 billion was needed to complete construction.

Much smaller

He also claimed that the building, which was designed to have enough space for at least 65 senators in case the proposed shift to federalism was successful, was “smaller” than the legislative body’s current headquarters in Pasay City.

There were likewise not enough parking spaces for its employees and visitors, Escudero added.

Addressing Senate employees, he said he had tasked Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, who earlier replaced Sen. Nancy Binay as chair of the Senate committee on accounts, to conduct a thorough “review and inquiry” of the project.

The intention of the review, Escudero explained, was to find ways to bring down the cost and ensure that the ongoing construction would be consistent with the original approved plan.

“It’s not true that we will be able to transfer to the new building in September. It’s also not true that we can transfer there before the year ends,” he told Senate employees.

Escudero said that Cayetano had already made recommendations to address the “escalating costs, quality issues and management inefficiencies.” Ironically, as head of the country’s organizing committee for the 30th Southeast Asian Games in 2019, Cayetano was criticized for spending P50 million on a cauldron for the competition.

Cayetano, Escudero added, also informed him that the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), which had been implementing the project, encountered delays in the procurement process that resulted in “project slowdowns and cost overruns.”

No money out … yet

Sought for comment, former Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who had initially led the implementation of the project as Binay’s predecessor, clarified that it was actually the DPWH that had been submitting cost estimates and variation orders to the Senate.

It was up to the 24-member chamber to approve or reject the DPWH’s requests, he said.

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“Based on my own inquiry with my former staff/team of consultants who eventually joined [Binay] … not a single peso of the P10.3 billion in additional funds … has been awarded since [Binay] and her team have consistently objected to the DPWH’s requests,” Lacson said in a Viber message.

TAGS: Chiz Escudero, Nancy Binay

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