No halt in Senate office construction—Cayetano

No halt in Senate office construction—Cayetano

By: - Reporter / @MRamosINQ
/ 05:44 AM June 13, 2024

No halt in Senate office construction–Cayetano

NEWEST LANDMARK The new Senate building, though still under construction, looms large in Taguig City. —Niño Jesus Orbeta

MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano clarified on Wednesday that the construction of the new Senate building in Taguig City has not been suspended despite an order from Senate President Francis Escudero who earlier expressed concern over its spiraling cost.

Cayetano, who was tasked by Escudero to review the project as the new chair of the Senate committee on accounts, said that Phases 1 and 2 of the construction would continue while they look into the multibillion-peso contract.

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The first two sections of the project cover the “core and shell” of the main structure of the 11-story, four-tower edifice being built on an 18,000-square-meter property at the Philippine Navy Village in Taguig City.

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READ: Work on new Senate office halted as cost rises

The new Senate office, which was conceptualized and approved by senators during the 17th Congress, had an initial allotment of P8.9 billion.

On Monday, Escudero said he was “shocked” to find out that the price tag for the entire building had ballooned to P23.3 billion, prompting him to order a halt to the project pending a review.

But Cayetano confirmed news reports that the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), earlier designated as the project manager, had not been directed to cease construction.

“The Phase 1 and Phase 2 have been bidded out and are already ongoing. The construction for that may proceed while we are conducting a review,” Cayetano, who declined to be interviewed by Senate reporters, said on Facebook Live.

“There’s no conflict there,” he said. “So we’re just looking at the documentation. We’re looking at the ‘whys and whats.’ But the construction will continue so that there will be no delays.”

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Only next phase affected

What was actually suspended, Cayetano explained, was the bidding for the next phase of the project, which had been allocated P10.3 billion under the 2024 General Appropriations Act.

“Nothing in this phase is awarded and is up for bidding,” he told Escudero in a letter dated June 7.

According to Cayetano, Escudero only wanted to ensure prudent spending for the 24-member chamber’s new home.

“Let’s say P10 billion was set aside for the new Senate building. Can we use that? If that’s in the budget, we could. But should we spend that?” he said.

Legal and moral

“We should not only be talking about what’s legal, but also what’s moral [and] what’s correct,” he added.

Sen. Nancy Binay, who supervised the project as chair of the accounts committee in 2022, had warned Escudero that stopping construction would only make their future office more expensive.

However, Cayetano said Escudero’s order “will not cause delays” because the review would just determine if the “amounts and the things we will buy are appropriate, and if the construction is also proper.”

“We are more than willing to listen to everyone,” he said.

In a letter he sent to Escudero, Cayetano said the initial assessment of the Senate Coordination Team (SCT) showed that the DPWH and the project’s private contractor, Hilmarc’s Construction Corp., had made a number of “variations, deviations and modifications.”

These did not only prolong the building’s completion but also resulted in additional costs, he noted.

“It was observed that DPWH had procured items not yet for implementation or in the inverse, it had not yet procured items [that] are already needed for implementation of the project,” Cayetano said.

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He also clarified that only P6 billion had been released for the project so far after the SCT withheld payments amounting to P5.4 billion to force the DPWH and the private contractor to “rectify issues in the project.”

TAGS: Alan Peter Cayetano, Senate

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