SENATE President Francis “Chiz” G. Escudero on Monday ordered the suspension of construction work for the new Senate building in Taguig City due to “escalating costs,” citing the need to review expenses and management practices.

After a flag-raising ceremony at the Senate, he told reporters the Senate would not be transferring to the Taguig building by September or anytime next year after the project cost rose to P23 billion from P8.9 billion.

“In my view, many people will find it in bad taste especially since we are in the middle of an economic crisis and with many of our countrymen living in poverty,” Mr. Escudero said in Filipino. “It is hard to swallow, and it is really surprising.”

Senator Alan Peter S. Cayetano, who heads the committee on accounts, told the Senate chief about the rising expenses for the building in a report on June 7.

Procurement delays by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and changes to the project had led to additional expenses worth P833 million, the Senate Public Relations and Information Bureau said in a statement.

Mr. Escudero agreed with Mr. Cayetano’s recommendations, including identifying “underlying problems in the project and compelling the DPWH to question, evaluate and rectify issues that can still be corrected,” he said in a separate statement.

“I told Senator Cayetano that based on his recommendation and report, to suspend whatever payments until we study this,” Mr. Escudero said.

The Senate has been renting its Pasay City building, which is owned by the Government Service Insurance System, since 1997.

In 2017, Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian filed a resolution that created an ad hoc committee to study the construction of the new Senate building, which is being built in Fort Bonifacio in Taguig City. — John Victor D. Ordoñez