By Mario Casayuran
Members of the Philippine Senate were unanimous in voting for the construction of a new, iconic Senate building for future generations of legislators and the Filipino people.
The estimated P4.58 billion cost of the four-building, six-story Senate will make legislators appreciative of a landmark that will symbolize Philippine culture, Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson said.
Lacson is chairman of the Senate accounts committee that was mandated to effect the transfer of the current Senate building to a new one.
‘’I based (my) figure (P4.58 billion project cost as submitted by AECOM) on facts; Mr. (Rigoberto) Tiglao based his on opinion, and said “Basta” with an exclamation point. Pray to tell me if it’s worth arguing with him,’’ Lacson said of Tiglao’s P10 billion estimate of the transfer cost.
Tiglao had maintained that the Senate has an expensive taste and that the billions of pesos for its new building is better off used to improve the Philippine-claimed Spratly island or other social service projects such as hospitals.
‘’For the longest time, the Senate has been renting the use of its building from the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) and its parking lot from the Social Security System (SSS). For nearly 20 years, it has been paying rental fees worth P127 million per year or P2.24 billion,’’ he said.
Lacson stressed that the cost of the Senate’s lease payments to GSIS and SSS have become enough to construct a permanent, iconic home for the Senate.
‘’More importantly, this project is not for me or any member of the present Senate in the 17th Congress, but for the future generations of legislators and the Filipino people, just like the other iconic landmarks built by our forefathers that continue to symbolize our culture,’’ he stressed.
Lacson said the Senate is entering its second century and ‘’we still don’t have a building we can call our own.’’
The new building will be built at the Bonifacio Global City (BGC) in Taguig city in a less than two-hectare lot bought from the Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA).
Lacson said that the Senate has already given P500 million as down payment to BCDA and the rest would be paid in installment basis in 10 years, still with a grace period.
This means that the Senate building project is ‘’self-liquidating,’’ he explained.
He said the new Senate building would have a six-lane road, from the current four-lane road at the former Navy Village.
The proposed Senate building would be provided access to the South Luzon Expressway and Skyway and the C-5 where a ramp has been constructed.
The current Senate building is not conducive to foreign visitors because it is cramped and has smelly toilets, Lacson said.
During committee hearings, vehicles of visitors and resource speakers have to be parked far, far away as the Senate’s parking is not even enough for its employees.
Construction of the Senate building starts next year and would be completed in the first quarter of 2021.
The winning Los Angeles-based architectural firm, AECOM, had offered P4.58 billion compared with the bids of competitors that ranged from P8.5 billion to P13 billion.
‘’Pinili ng mga kasamahan ko ang pinakamababa,’’ he said. (My colleagues selected the lowest bid.).
Lacson said AECOM has a local partner. Aecom has also designed many buildings, including the World Trade Center in New York.
He said the Senate rejected a donation of the Antipolo city government of its 25-hectare lot because its land cost development would be more expensive in the long run than the BGC.
Lacson said the exterior of the AECOM-designed Senate building looks like the Filipino Barong Tagalog.