THE government spent P55.920 million for the construction of a giant cauldron at the New Clark City in Capas, Tarlac that will be used for the torch lighting ceremony during the 2019 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games.
Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon was aghast at how organizers extravagantly spent for the design and construction of the stadium cauldron, which he pointed out “will be used only once.”
“A P50-million kaldero! Do you realize that at P1 million per classroom, this can construct 50 classrooms? In other words, we did away with 50 classrooms in exchange for one kaldero, is this a correct conclusion?” Drilon asked during yesterday’s Senate plenary deliberation on the proposed P15 billion budget of the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) for next year.
“Is that reasonable? Is that a correct prioritization? Each classroom will cost P1 million and just for the kaldero, which should be used only once, we will spend P50 million,” Drilon also said.
He added: “I’m not talking about overpricing. I’m talking about the propriety of doing away with 50 classrooms in order to put up a P50-million cauldron.”
Drilon, in an interview during a break in the plenary discussions, said that for the cauldron alone, the Philippine government paid P4.4 million for its design, P13.4 million for the
foundation, and P32 million for the construction of the cauldron itself, among others.
Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara, chairman of the Senate finance committee and sponsor of the BCDA proposed budget, faltered at Drilon’s query and failed to give a direct answer.
Angara said: “I was told the kaldero is made of steel that’s why it costs high. It is a symbol of the country. It stands at the entrance of the athletic stadium… It showcases the ingenuity of the Filipinos. I think it is also done by other ASEAN countries.”
He added the Philippine Sports Commission, which was in-charge of the construction of the over-sized cauldron, tapped National Artist and architect Francisco “Bobby” Manosa to do the design.
“I think what the government is really envisioning was to do a really impressive hosting of the games and showcase the Philippine ingenuity by using Philippine creative designers and performers. I think this is what other Southeast Asian countries have also done when it was their turn to host,” Angara added.
The BCDA could also not answer Drilon’s question if the construction of the cauldron underwent the bidding process.
Angara said the budget for the construction of the cauldron was appropriated by Congress but did not know how the funds were distributed.
Drilon said: “We did not see (budget distribution) when we approved the budget.”
The minority leader suggested that a special audit by the Commission on Audit be done because “for me, P55 million is an extravagance that is so unnecessary and somebody has to answer for this.”
Drilon faulted the organizers for such extravagant spending even as he called on the public to support the country’s athletes.
“Kailangan suportahan natin sila so they can compete and bring honor to our country. But it doesn’t mean that we will not question these expenses. In fact, after the games in December, I will file a resolution asking the Senate to investigate this. Let us let the athletes compete first and let us support our athletes (We must support our athletes so they can compete and bring honor to the country. But it doesn’t mean that we will not question these expenses. In fact, after the games in December, I will file a resolution asking the Senate to investigate this. Let us let the athletes compete first and let us support our athletes),” he added.
Also during the plenary discussions, Drilon asked where the BCDA will get the P188 million a year for the maintenance of the New Clark City, to which Angara replied the funding will be derived from rentals of the place.
Angara said the new sports facility in Capas, Tarlac needs P188 million a year for the maintenance of its aquatic center (P50 million), athletic stadium (P120 million), warm-up track (P8 million), and athletes’ village (P10 million).
He said the BCDA plans to privatize the sports facility after the SEA games.
“The BCDA is looking at leasing the facility and property around the athletic facility… There are talks with three big businesses, negotiations are ongoing but they won’t disclose the names yet,” Angara said, adding once the negotiation pushes through, the stadium can earn around P80 million a year in rentals.
Drilon said he will strictly monitor how the BCDA will earn from the facilities after the SEA Games.
The 15 billion proposed budget for the BCDA was passed last week but senators moved to recall it hours later after several questions were not answered when the budget proposal for the Philippine Sports Commission was being tackled.
The issues or unanswered questions for the BCDA were stumbled upon during the PSC budget deliberations since the SEA Games were under the BCDA as most of the venues for the games are under the BCDA.