By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
THE ASEAN Para Games 2020 which the country was set to host next month had been pushed to a later date after local organizers were forced to such a decision over what they related was caused by issues on funding and budget.
It was news that was greeted with lament by Para Games stakeholders in the region as they were not only looking forward to parade their wares in the Games, a twin event that immediately follows the staging of the Southeast Asian Games, but also they are now have to make adjustments that would entail additional burden on them, including in scheduling and funding, they said.
Originally set for Jan. 18 to 25, the ASEAN Para Games 2020 has been moved to March to give the organizers time to settle financial and logistical matters.
“While we have made every effort to prepare the Games in the past one and a half years, matters well beyond our control are compelling us to reschedule the event,” said Michael Barredo, Philippine Paralympic Committee president, in a statement.
The PPC official said they were informed of the development late last week by the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC), the agency tasked to fund the Para Games as directed by a memorandum from Malacañang.
The body initially committed P100 million for the staging of the event, but much of it was already spent for the preparation and training of the differently abled athletes, leaving it with less funds to hand to the Philippine ASEAN Para Games Organizing Committee (PHILAPGOC) to run a successful staging of the Games.
Compounding the funding woes is that the PSC’s coffers have been weighed down by the money put into the training, preparation and international exposures of the national athletes who competed in the SEA Games, which took place from Nov. 30 to Dec. 11.
It is hoped that by moving the competition to March, enough funding would be raised to get the Games going as seamlessly as possible.
The decision to move the competition had already been relayed to the ASEAN Para Sports Federation (APSF).
While saddened by the decision, the APSF said it understands the situation and asked for understanding from other participating countries in the region.
“Whilst expressing regret over the postponement and its impact, APSF acknowledges that the current situation, which involved the Games budget and disbursement of funding from the Philippines Sports Commission to the Philippines ASEAN Para Games Organizing Committee have left the Organizing Committee with no alternative but to postpone and seek new dates for the Games,” a release from the APSF read.
For the Singapore Disability Sports Council, the postponement of the ASEAN Para Games (APG) carries a lot of repercussions.
Its president, Kevin Wong, shared in an interview with the The Straits Times, that the postponement not only puts a burden on countries as far as additional costs for flight rescheduling but also affects athletes vying for the Paralympics.
“Given there should have been proper planning in the long buildup to the APG, this postponement should not be happening,” said Mr. Wong.
“We are not the only country affected and this is very disruptive for every participating nation’s preparations. There are also athletes who may have planned to try and qualify for the Paralympics during the original dates, and have to miss that window now,” he added.
Team Singapore, however, expressed hope that the issue gets resolved soon just as it asked the ASPF to look into the contracts with ASEAN Para Games host countries to avoid such instances like the one at hand from happening.
For the ASEAN Para Games 2020, some 1,500 athletes from 11 countries are set to take part.