By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
Senior Reporter

WHILE the sudden resignation of Ricky Vargas as Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) president on Tuesday left questions over the country’s preparations as host of the 30th Southeast Asian Games later this year, the man who was tasked to replace him expressed determination to work to have little disruption in the buildup as possible.

Joey Romasanta, erstwhile first vice-president of the POC, assumed the presidency of the local Olympic committee after Mr. Vargas submitted his irrevocable resignation to give way to other sports leaders “who would have the time and inclination needed to lead the POC effectively.”

Mr. Vargas was meeting members of the POC Board when he tendered his resignation, made official by letter coursed through chairman Abrahan Tolentino.

The meeting was called to straighten things out in the POC and clarify issues hounding the country’s hosting of this year’s SEA Games.

In the letter, Mr. Vargas, who earlier expressed dislike for the “politics” surrounding Philippine sports, said his resignation was effective immediately just as he thanked all the athletes and national sports associations who supported him and his programs as POC president.

Mr. Vargas stepped down from his post a year and a half since taking the position in February 2018, a tenure that proved to be rocky with him not seeing eye-to-eye with some sports leaders on certain issues and policies.

It also came less than six months before the country hosts the 30th SEA Games in November to December.

Admitting to have been taken by surprise by Mr. Vargas’ decision, Mr. Romasanta said there is no way to go about it but just to move on and work for the successful staging of the Games.

Mr. Romasanta said first to be done is to take stock of where the preparations are at this point, pick up the pieces and take it from there.

“Anybody would regard this as a huge honor as POC president but not under these circumstances. It’s going to be very difficult. But at the same time we have to pick up the pieces and see what we have and what we don’t have especially with the SEA Games hosting challenge,” said Mr. Romasanta to members of media after being tasked as the new POC president.

“We have to regroup, communicate with the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) to go through the plans and programs to make the SEA Games successful and work with Phisgoc chairman Alan Peter Cayetano. This is for the country after all. We hope to be better organized to ensure the success of the Games,” he added.

Mr. Romasanta said he is looking to have the POC and the PSC take greater participation in the preparation unlike in the current setup where the Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee (Phisgoc) Foundation is at the lead.

The formation of the Phisgoc Foundation was one of the issues brought forth against Mr. Vargas by some members of the POC prior to his resignation.

Mr. Vargas reportedly was one of the eight original incorporators of Phisgoc Foundation, which the POC board members do not recognize because they said it was set up without their approval.

Mr. Romasanta, however, said he does not intend to cast aside Phisgoc entirely but instead leaning at making it a committee for the preparations.

In the aftermath of the sudden change in POC leadership, a special general assembly among POC members was set for next week.