BY BONG PEDRALVEZ and Peter Tabingo
THE Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee (PHISGOC) yesterday apologized to the national football teams of Timor Leste, Myanmar and Cambodia for the transport problem and hotel arrangements that left some of them stranded for hours after their arrival at the airport.
“We sincerely apologize to our athlete guests from Timor-Leste, Myanmar and Cambodia for the inconvenience caused to them by the confusion regarding their transportation and hotel arrangements,” PHISGOC said in a statement issued through Speaker Allan Peter Cayetano.
Cayetano is the chairman of PHISGCOC, which has taken a lot of flak lately for various issues surrounding the SEA Games formally opening this Saturday at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan.
Malacanang also issued an apology, with Chief Presidential Legal Counsel and presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo saying: “Incidents of delays in transport and checking-in at hotels happen in international sports and games by reason of the number of countries and athletes involved. We can no longer undo what has been done. The Office of the President will not offer any excuses. As host country, we apologize for the unintentional inconvenience suffered by our athlete-guests.”
He said the more important thing is that there were no report of any incident jeopardizing the safety and health of the athletes and that the PHISGOC’s commitment to ensure a better and proper coordination from the arrival of other foreign athletes to their transportation and hotel accommodations.
Some sports disciplines are already under way, including the men’s and women’s football tournaments that kick off today at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium and Binan Stadium in Laguna, respectively, and the polo event in Batangas.
The plight of the Timor Leste squad was highlighted by Fox Sports Asia last Saturday after the team arrived at around 4 a.m. and their transfer delayed by at least three hours.
Compounding their miseries, the team members were taken to the wrong hotel before straggling into the proper one nearby where they were supposed to be quartered, the sports website claimed, quoting the Facebook page of the “Asean Football News.”
Complaints and pictures were posted on social media early Saturday showing athletes and support staff waiting in an airport lounge without any Philippine officials to welcome them and ensure they get to their hotels without a hitch.
Members of the Cambodian Under-22 football team were shown sleeping on the floor of a conference room of a hotel.
The posts as well as the unflattering pictures were picked up by local and international media covering the biennial meet. They were the latest in several unflattering reports about the Games the Philippines is hosting for the fourth time, including the P55 million cauldron that will be used to keep the Games flame going during the duration of the event.
“We acknowledge our shortcomings in this particular incident and vow to do better,” PHISGOC said.
As for the problems encountered by the Cambodian squad, it explained that the “change in arrival details was relayed late to the PHISGOC Games Services Department.
“Instead of the arrival time initially relayed to PHISGOC, the Cambodian team arrived in NAIA at 4 a.m. Transportation was immediately provided, but their hotel rooms were not yet available because the standard check-in time is 2 p.m.
PHISGOC said it requested “that the team be allowed to wait at an air-conditioned private hotel conference room with tables and chairs where the members could rest and feel comfortable while waiting for their rooms.”
The organizers virtually admitted they have their hands full, noting “there were 34 international arrivals on Friday, November 22, in our NAIA Terminals, consisting of seven (7) sports team delegations, technical officials and representatives of the respective National Olympic Committees.
“Saturday, November 23, there were 38 arrivals in our NAIA Terminals and 5 arrivals in our Clark International Airport of SEA Games athletes, delegates and officials.
“We are pleased to report that in the past two days there have been 75 international arrivals, consisting of various sports team delegations, technical officials and representatives of the respective National Olympic Committees that have gone off without a hitch,” PHISGOC said.
“The incident with the two teams remains a constant reminder for us as organizers to be more diligent. We owe it to our guests and our countrymen,” it said.
SECURITY IN PLACE
The PNP yesterday said all security measures are in place for the Games that will be held in Metro Manila and other parts of the country starting Saturday.
“Our security preparations are rolled out and we are very ready for the opening on November 30,” PNP spokesman Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac told dzBB.
National Capital Region Police Office acting Regional Director Brig. Gen. Debold Sinas said no security threats have been monitored for the Games. Sinas said they will intensify police visibility throughout the games.
Banac said around 27,000 police have been tapped for the SEA Games and will perform duties such as area and route security, close-in security to heads of states, convoy security and rescue in case of emergencies.
He said the policemen will also secure the billeting areas of the athletes and delegates and commercial establishments that might be visited by the athletes during their free time.
“We’ve covered everything,” said Banac. “We don’t want to be criticized over our security preparations for the foreign athletes coming here so we are implementing strict security measures.
“We are prohibiting them (policemen) from using their cellphones in public, especially if they are on security duties. They have to be alert and vigilant. They should not lose their focus (on the job) by using their phones,” Banac said, adding the PNP, in coordination with concerned agencies, recently tested their capability to respond to emergencies.
“We had a dry run of our response in case of a breakdown, in case of accident and we saw we our capability to rescue. We just hope we won’t be hampered by heavy traffic,” said Banac.
“We are anticipating all these but we are expecting no untoward (incident) will occur (during the SEA Games),” said Banac.
Senate majority leader Juan Miguel Zubiri yesterday said all senators have agreed to enter into a ceasefire in connection with whatever concerns they may have on the Southeast Asian Game and to just bring out their gripes once the games are over.
“I requested (Senate minority leader Franklin) Drilon before we parted ways last week, as well as the other senators that we concentrate on helping Team Philippines become overall champions,” Zubiri told dzBB.
Zubiri’s request to his colleagues was made day after Drilon, during the deliberations for the 2020 budget of the Philippine Sports Commission, questioned the extravagant spending for the construction of the New Clark City in Capas, Tarlac where only two sporting events (track and field, and swimming) will be held.
Drilon also hit the games organizers for putting up a cauldron at the New Clark City which costs P55 million, which he said could have somehow addressed the classroom shortage in the country by builing at least 50 classrooms at a cost of P1 million each.
Zubiri also appealed to the public to bear with the heavy traffic they will experience due to the games because athletes will have a special lane. – With Jocelyn Montemayor, Victor Reyes, Raymond Africa and Cyra Corral