MANILA, Philippines – Vice-President Jejomar Binay is expected to move to his new office at the Coconut Palace in February.
The P1.2-billion facility, also known as Tahanang Pilipino, will be the official office of Binay and future vice-presidents of the Philippines.
Binay’s chief of staff, Benjamin Martinez Jr., made the disclosure during a Christmas party hosted by the Office of the Vice-President.
The 32-year-old, 2.7-hectare Coconut Palace is owned by the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS). It situated at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) complex in Pasay City.
It will be leased by the GSIS for P400,000 a month, way below the P890,000 monthly rental for the vice-president’s present office at Philippine National Bank Financial Center along President Diosdado Macapagal Boulevard in Pasay City.
The Coconut Palace has 7 bedrooms that were once used by the Marcoses, George Hamilton, and Brooke Shields.
It would be mostly a “ceremonial” house where the vice-president will receive guests, hold conferences, meet the press, and other official functions, Martinez added.
“You can call it the Malacañang for the vice-president,” said Joey Salgado, Binay’s media affairs chief.
Martinez noted the history of the place, particularly its “opulence and grandeur,” which would not be lost on visiting dignitaries.
“Now we don't have to go to hotels. There's a permanent home for the vice-president. It transcends Binay because this place will be for the vice president,” Salgado said.
President Benigno Aquino III himself offered Binay to use Coconut Palace as his official residence.
Martinez said Dr. Elenita Binay, the vice-president’s wife is expected to help in the interior design of her husband's new office.
Built in 1978 and designed by architect Francisco Mañoza, the Coconut Palace is made of several types of Philippine hardwood and coconut shells, and a specially engineered coconut lumber apparently known as Imelda Madera.
GSIS has spent P10 million renovating the place.
Salgado said Binay's staff would also try not to change anything, except add new equipment, office supplies, and furniture.
The Coconut Palace was commissioned by then first lady Imelda Marcos for the visit of the late Pope John Paul II in 1981 in Manila.
However, the Pope refused the offer, saying it was too ostentatious a place to stay while in a poverty-stricken country like the Philippines.
During the Marcos regime, the Palace was used to house high-profile guests of the government, like Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and Hollywood stars Shields and Hamilton.