Lacson defends construction of P4.5-B Senate building

Audrey Morallo - Philstar.com
MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Panfilo Lacson on Monday defended plans for a multibillion-peso new Senate building, after a columnist blasted the proposal and stressed that the money could be used for other purposes.

In his Monday article, Manila Times columnist Rigoberto Tiglao said that the building, which he described as a monument to the country’s political elite’s “profligacy” or wastefulness, would cost the Philippines P10 billion.

Lacson defended the plan and said that Tiglao’s figure is wrong as the project would only require the Philippines to shell out P4.58 billion.

“With all due respect to Mr. Bobi Tiglao, he got his info wrong. One major consideration why AECOM won over Henning Larsen, their nearest competitor, and the three other finalists is their project cost which is the lowest at P4.58 billion (if I remember correctly),” Lacson said in a statement.

The senator explained that the main reason for the transfer of the Senate to a new location is the P127 million in annual rental fees that the chamber has been paying the Government Service Insurance System for what he labeled as a “subpar legislative building.”

According to Tiglao, the “whopping” amount of money could be used to finance other “worthy” government projects such as the activation of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, scholarships and allowances for poor science and engineering students, houses for 50,000 government workers, hospitals in 10 of the country’s cities, complete cleanup of Pasig River, takeover of the Manila Electric Co. or the rehabilitation of the Metro Rail Transit-3.

He added that the Philippines could also use the P10 billion to fortify its territory in the South China Sea to strengthen its claims.

“The Senate’s plan to build a P10-billion office for itself is like a factory worker planning to build a mansion in a posh village. In a sense, if the Senate ever gets to build its iconic headquarters, it would be such a glaring instance of unexplained wealth,” Tiglao wrote.

Last month, Lacson, the chair of the Senate committee on accounts, announced that the global architectural firm AECOM’s conceptual design was chosen by the Senate for the construction of its new home in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City.

Lacson said that there had been attempts to relocate the Senate, but it was only when his colleagues tasked him to lead the efforts when the plan moved forward.

“I am one who makes sure to accomplish a task assigned to me. That has always been my training and I will not back down unless my colleagues tell me in another resolution to stop pursuing the same,” Lacson said.

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