By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
AMID reports that the Philippines is in danger of losing the rights to host the 2019 Southeast Asian Games later this year over “problems” regarding the budget and in-government disagreements that have delayed the country’s preparation, officials of the local organizing committee moved to allay such fears and said the Games’ hosting is still a go and that they are on top of things.
Speaking to members of media during a press conference at the Max’s Kabisera restaurant at the Bonifacio Global City in Taguig on Saturday, officials of the Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee (PHISGOC), led by chairman Alan Peter Cayetano, took it as an opportunity to debunk reports that the Philippines was running the risk of losing hosting rights of the biennial regional sporting meet as perceived delays in preparation of the country is not sitting well with the SEA Games Federation Council which is closely monitoring the situation.
Mr. Cayetano, who was joined in the press conference by Philippine Olympic Committee Chairman Abraham Tolentino and PHISGOC chief operating officer Ramon Suzara, reiterated a statement released by the organizing body the previous day assuring that the Games will push through in the country from Nov. 31 to Dec. 13 this year.
He did, however, say that the preparations are encountering “challenges,” including the release of the budget for the hosting, but these were something that they are confident of being able to address.
“We will continue to host the SEA Games. There is no truth to reports of the contrary,” Mr. Cayetano, the former secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs, said.
“Construction of major structures for the event is on track. And when we say on track we mean by September they will be ready, or two months before the hosting so our athletes can use them for training. Of course there are delays in construction but these are normal and we were assured that they will be completed on schedule,” he added.
The PHISGOC chairman was responding to a question over persistent talk of the country not being able to deliver from its end of hosting the 2019 SEA Games.
Last week, reports were published in various media (not in this paper) saying that the Philippines is likely to lose the hosting to either Indonesia or Thailand, which are deemed more prepared, as the country grapples for the release of the budget and bickering among officials eight months away from the event.
The reports further said that the SEA Games Federation Council is closely watching and might ask the Philippines to drop the hosting if it does not get its act together.
Mr. Cayetano said the budget is key in hurdling the challenges that the organizers are facing. It does not help either that the budget they were asking was further trimmed down by 33%.
The PHISGOC originally planned to propose a P9-billion budget for the hosting but eventually wound up with a proposal of an itemized budget of P7.5 billion to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).
It was approved by DBM and the House of Representative but when it reached the Senate, the budget was slashed by one-third to P5 billion.
Mr. Cayetano said it will help the preparation if the budget is already released and the original amount be retained.
“We are appealing to Congress. As soon as we can pass the budget the better for us and restore the amount that what was taken away from the budget. It’s hard to make a reduction in the middle of the preparation,” he said.
Mr. Cayetano also addressed concerns on some stakeholders not agreeing on the direction that the preparation is going, asking them to talk to them and avoid creating further confusion.
“Crab mentality. That is a problem not only in sports but in politics as well. There are spoilers when we are doing great and getting our act together,” said the PHISGOC official.
“We appeal to them for us to come together. We want to be inclusive. If you want to say something, let’s talk about it in the board. Let’s not create a problem if there is no problem,” Mr. Cayetano added.
The 2019 SEA Games is set to take place in different parts of the country, including in Manila, Subic, Clark and Batangas with the center the New Clark City Sports Complex in Tarlac. There will be 56 sports in the Games involving 523 events.
By Michael Angelo S. Murillo