CABANATUAN CITY—Outgoing Nueva Ecija Gov. Aurelio Umali has said the P50.2-billion construction of the New Bilibid Prison in General Tinio town will push through amid the reluctance of President Benigno Aquino III to approve the same over fears he might be accused of implementing a “midnight deal” in the remaining days of his term.
Umali said he had spoken with Mr. Aquino and the latter had said he would give his go signal for the project, even as its implementation would be left to the Duterte administration.
President Aquino expressed his reluctance over approving the project when he visited the province to inaugurate a solar farm.
The New Bilibid Prison will be constructed inside the Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation where Mr. Aquino’s late father, former senator Benigno Aquino Jr. was placed under solitary confinement during martial law.
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 will have a maximum capacity of 26,000 inmates. To be transferred are 20,000 inmates from the NBP’s current location in Muntinlupa City and 2,000 from the Correctional Institute for Women in Mandaluyong City.
Novo Ecijanos had already anticipated the project which is expected to generate at least 53,800 jobs.
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 were all delayed.
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.