GEN. TINIO, Nueva Ecija—President Benigno Aquino III is now reportedly unsure about transferring the New Bilibid Prison to new P50.2-billion facility that would be constructed in Nueva Ecija over fears he might be accused of entering into a midnight deal during the remaining days of his term.
President Aquino, who was in the province recently to inaugurate a solar farm, said if he had his way, he would have a correctional facility built before the end of his term even as he is now reluctant to approve the public-private partnership project.
The facility is planned to be built inside the Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation. It is here where the President’s father, former Senator Benigno Aquino Jr., was placed under solitary confinement during Martial Law.
President Aquino said he discovered that documentation for the big-ticket project would be finalized on June 29, a day before he steps down from office. He said Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa had reminded him that the project would be awarded June 29 to complete the process.
“I will step down from office at noon of June 30. Of course, there will be some questions that the project might be a midnight deal,” he said.
But he said Novo Ecijanos had already anticipated the project which is expected to generate at least 53,800 jobs.
The two-story facility is planned to be constructed under the build-transfer-maintain structure at a 500-hectare area in Barangay Nazareth inside the fort as a joint undertaking of the Department of Justice and the Bureau of Corrections.
Teodora Diaz, BuCor assistant director, said the facility would have a maximum capacity of 26,000 inmates. Twenty-thousand inmates from NBP and 2,000 from the Correctional Institute for Women in Mandaluyong City will be transferred to the Nueva Ecija facility.
Bidding for the project was set in February 2015, seven months after it was presented to local officials. The contract was supposed to be signed in April 2015 and actual construction, estimated to take three years, should have started in October 2015.
The following schedules, however, were all delayed.
Former DOJ Undersecretary Francisco Baraan, who was the department’s supervising official on the BuCor and the NBP, said the new facility will follow international standards.
The 551-hectare NBP in Muntinlupa, which opened in 1940, is now heavily congested as it houses 14,500 prisoners in its maximum security detention area alone although it was programmed to accommodate only 8,400 inmates. All in all, the NBP houses around 20,000 inmates.
The government plans to convert the Muntinlupa penitentiary, valued at around P42 billion, into a mixed-use commercial area.