By Wilnard Bacelonia

ON HOLD. Senator Nancy Binay (left) gives an update on the new Senate building that is already under construction in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City on May 29, 2023. Senate President Francis Escudero on Monday (June 10, 2024) that he has ordered the suspension and review of the building’s construction amid escalating costs. (PNA file photo by Avito Dalan)

MANILA – The Senate leadership is set to review the construction of the new Senate building in Taguig City due to concerns over escalating costs.

This, after Senate President Francis Escudero announced during the flag ceremony on Monday that he suspended its construction, which was originally set to be finished on September this year.

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 it will be finished because there are still many things that need to be prepared and many things that we have seen that still need to be scrutinized and studied),” Escudero said.

He said the initial budget for the construction of the New Senate building was PHP8.9 billion, and later ballooned to PHP23 billion.

Sa aking pananaw, masama ito sa panlasa ng karamihan, lalong masama sa panlasa ng nakararami nating mga kababayan, lalo na sa gitna ng krisis ng ekonomiya at sa kahirapan na nakikita ng marami sa ating kababayan (In my view, this leaves a bad taste for the majority, especially a bad taste for most of our countrymen amid the economic crisis and the poverty that many of them experience),” he said.

He said he ordered the suspension in response to a report submitted by Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, who now chairs the Committee on Accounts, detailing issues such as budget increase, quality concerns, and management inefficiencies.

He said Cayetano’s report cited some project modifications that resulted in additional expenses amounting to PHP833 million, which is nearly 10 percent of the original contract price.

Cayetano also recommended to identify project issues and engaging a third-party construction management team for validation and cost reduction.

Escudero instructed Cayetano to review the project and address these concerns to ensure project quality and efficiency.

The construction of the New Senate building was initiated by the 17th Congress in 2017 after former Senator Panfilo Lacson, then-chair of the Committee on Accounts, called for the need to relocate to a new site for the Philippine Senate due to increasing space limitations and the need for enhanced facilities.

Meanwhile, Senator Nancy Binay, who formerly chairs the Committee on Accounts, assured that she is ready to provide all the information needed by the Senate leadership about the ongoing construction of the new Senate building.

Naghihintay po lamang ako na ako’y ipatawag (I am just waiting to be invited). If there are questions and some clarifications, or things that need to be verified or validated, or to check if some information are indeed factual or simply intended to sow misinformation and spread falsehoods – I am just a call or text away,” Binay said in a statement.

“I understand that the Senate President meant well in reviewing the budget for New Senate Building pero sana madaliin nila ang (but I hope they speed up the) review. We want to avoid any unnecessary expense brought by the delay,” she added, but made it clear that she agrees with Escudero “to look for ways to bring the costs down.” (PNA)