By Mario Casayuran
The Senate, by a majority vote, approved yesterday a resolution seeking to move the current Senate to the upscale two-hectare Bonifacio Global City (BGC) in Taguig City, and not to Antipolo City where a 25-hectare lot is being offered for free.
The decision made during the regular session presided over by Sen. Joseph Victor ‘’JV’’ Ejercito would finally end the role of the Senate as a tenant in the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) complex since 1996.
Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson, chairman of the Senate accounts committee tasked to study the transfer move, said the Senate has paid P2.24 billion to the GSIS and Social Security System (SSS) from May1, 1996 to December 31, 2017 for using six floors of the GSIS building and its parking lot that has become inadequate.
‘’Suffice it to say, that for over 27 years, the cost of our lease payments have probably become enough to construct an iconic, permanent Senate building,’’ he said.
Senators Risa Hontiveros and Paolo Benigno Aquino IV of the Senate minority bloc cast the two lone ‘’No’’ votes.
Lacson cited the legislative buildings in Washington, D.C.; London; Budapest and Berlin as iconic and have become popular tourist attractions not only because of their architectural beauty but also of their rich history.
‘’It is worth mentioning here that no less than our own Supreme Court has taken a leap forward in the groundbreaking of its home – a sprawling architecture with its Philippine flag-inspired design, solar-powered and earthquake-proof structure. By 2019, our High Tribunal will already find its home at the BGC in Taguig,’’ he said.
Lacson said the construction of the Senate building to be located in a two hectare- lot could start during the third quarter of 2018 and be finished by the third quarter of 2020.
With the property being valued at P90,000 per square meter, the total cost of acquiring the 20,000-square meter BGC property being offered by the Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA) would be P1.8 billion payable in 10 or possibly more years, he said.
Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri said the Senate is being offered a sweetheart deal by the BGC because the current market rate is P1 million per square meter.
Lacson also assured Sen. Grace Poe that government agencies are at present widening roads leading to the proposed Senate site.
He said he has already submitted his individual amendment to the proposed 2018 P3.76 trillion national budget now pending on the Senate floor a P1.5 billion realignment as initial appropriation for a multi-year budget for the Senate relocation.
Antipolo City Mayor Casimiro A. Ynares Jr. has expressed his willingness to donate 25 hectares located along the Marikina-Infanta road, Barangay San Jose/Inarawan as a possible site for the new Senate building.
Lacson told his colleagues that the House of Representatives is also thinking of relocating its offices at the Batasang Pambansa building complex in Quezon city to the BGC.
He said 691 or 66.96 percent of the Senate employees surveyed voted for the BGC while 191 respondents or 18.5 percent favored Antipolo city.
‘’It is about time that we turn this long-standing dream into reality. If we do not take action now, I am afraid that there will only be talks and talks, again and again, about this matter in the future till kingdom come. And I tell you, it will be a never-ending comic cycle,’’ he explained.
He pressed his colleagues to decide on the transfer of the Upper House of Congress ‘’from this present self-degrading site founded on a pathetic ‘’landlord-tenant’’ relationship to a more dignified, iconic edifice that we can call our own that this present 17th Congress can leave as a proud legacy to the future generations of legislators’’ to either the BGC or Antipolo sites.