PRESIDENT RODRIGO R. Duterte has defended the controversial P55-million cauldron tower at the main venue of the coming 30th South East Asian (SEA) Games, citing that it is the work of a national artist.

“There can never be corruption in that situation because you commissioned a national artist,” Mr. Duterte said late Tuesday. “You cannot estimate how much nalugi ka (you lost) because it is the rendition of the mind of the creator,” he added.

The steel cauldron was designed by the late National Artist for Architecture Francisco “Bobby” T. Mañosa, also known as the Father of Philippine Neo-Vernacular Architecture.

The symbolical structure first came under fire after Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon questioned officials organizing the SEA Games last Monday on why they spent on an “extravagance that is so unnecessary.”

House Speaker Alan Peter S. Cayetano, chairman of the Philippine SEA Games Organizing Committee (PHISGOC), defended that the project serves as a showpiece and noted that it only cost P45 million to build. He told reporters the rest of the fund will be used for gasoline and other equipment needed to keep the cauldron burning during the 11 days of the SEA Games. — Gillian M. Cortez