Duterte shrugs off criticisms vs P55M ‘kaldero’


    PRESIDENT Duterte on Tuesday night said there was nothing extravagant or corrupt in the construction of the P55 million controversial cauldron to be used for the forthcoming Southeast Asian (SEA) Games as he swept under the rags criticisms that it was too expensive.

    Duterte, in a press conference in Malacañang, said national artist Francisco “Bobby” Mañosa was commissioned to do the cauldron and one cannot question how much the artist will charge for his work.

    “You know, there can never be corruption in that situation because you commissioned a national artist… Mañosa was commissioned by the government to create iyung nakita mo, iyung kaldero ngayon (the cauldron that you see now). It is a product of the mind. You cannot estimate how much nalugi ka because it is the rendition of the mind of the creator (You cannot estimate how much you lost because it is the rendition of the mind of the creator),” he said.

    He added that Mañosa had also been commissioned in the past for government projects like the Coconut Palace and the Edsa Shrine.

    Sen. Franklin Drilon had criticized the expensive structure, saying said the P55 million spent for putting up the cauldron could have been used to build at least 50 classrooms.

    The President, however, chided Drilon and called his attention to previous allegations of overpricing of the Iloilo Convention Center (ICC) which was a pet project of the senator.

    “Bakit iyung coliseum niya doon ganun kalaki? Bakit hindi niya diyan liit-liitan? Bakit ganun kalaki? Iyun ang plano eh. Wala kang makuha diyan. It is the rendition of the request of government for this national artist to build. Siya lang ang nakaalam kung ilang presyo niya (Why is his coliseum there, that big? Why didn’t he make it smaller? Why is it that big?

    Because that is the plan. You will not get anything there. It is the rendition of the request of government for this national artist to build. He is the only one who knows how much it is priced),” he added.

    Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, chairman of the Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee (PHISGOC) had said the cauldron was neither overpriced nor extravagant, adding that it is even “cheaper” than Singapore’s P62-million piece.

    Cayetano said the cauldron is important as it symbolizes the SEA Games’ competitive spirit.

    Anakalusugan party-list Rep. Mike Defensor said Drilon’s criticisms on the construction of the P55 million worth cauldron at the New Clark City should have been raised after the conduct of the SEA Games because it will only demoralize athletes.

    “That is bad timing, wrong for country and wrong for the athletes,” Defensor told a press conference. “If there is any issue, it should have been raised after the SEA Games because it will only cause demoralization among our athletes who, for sure, have their own concerns during their trainings.”

    Defensor echoed Cayetano’s claim that the pricey cauldron is actually even cheaper compared to the P62 million cauldron of Singapore in 2015 and P85 million cauldron of Malaysia in 2017.

    “Why are we doing this at the midst of the SEA Games which we’re hosting? Just come to think of it, if you’re an athlete from another nation, they would think that there are corruption issues. It would bring shame to the country, isn’t it? The timing should have been way way before, or after the SEA Games,” he said.

    NLEX Corp. said it will deploy additional manpower to address the anticipated surge in traffic volume in the forthcoming 2019 SEA Games that will be held in various venues from 30 November to 11 December 2019.

    “We assure all athletes, officials and spectators from abroad, as well as our fellow Filipinos, that they will enjoy smooth traffic flow and security at the NLEX and SCTEX for the duration of the Games”, said Luigi Bautista NLEX president.

    A surge of motorists at the NLEX is expected during the SEA Games opening ceremony on November 30 which will be held at the 55,000-seat Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan.

    NLEX will deploy close to 100 additional field supervisors, patrol crews, traffic marshals, and security officers in key NLEX-SCTEX areas such as Balintawak Cloverleaf NLEX entry, Ciudad de Victoria (Philippine Arena), Bocaue Interchange, and the major toll plazas in Balintawak, Bocaue, Clark South, Clark North, the new Bamban Interchange, San Miguel (Hacienda Luisita), and Tipo (Subic Freeport Expressway) to manage the traffic and assist delegates and motorists alike.

    For the past four weeks, NLEX traffic management teams have actively participated in the preparations conducted by the Philippine National Police and the PHISGOC. During the simulation exercises held by the PNP last November 14, the NLEX teams had the opportunity to fine tune its traffic management protocols and adjust traffic routes.

    For the November 30 opening ceremonies, a stop-and-go scheme will be implemented at EDSA Balintawak Cloverleaf and NLEX Balintawak Toll Plaza to prioritize official SEA Games vehicle convoys.

    To facilitate northbound entry, two toll lanes at the Balintawak Toll Plaza will be assigned for SEA Games convoys bound for the Philippine Arena. For the return trip to Manila after the opening event, two toll lanes at NLEX Bocaue Toll Plaza will be assigned exclusively for the official convoys.

    A tow truck will be fielded near the Philippine Arena to immediately tow stalled vehicles, and emergency incident response teams will be on standby in Bocaue to implement traffic counter-flow as necessary.

    For close traffic and security visual monitoring, a CCTV mobile traffic control station will be set up at the Philippine Arena during the event.

    No truck ban will be implemented at the NLEX during the Opening Ceremonies but construction along the mainline road at the NLEX-SCTEX will be suspended unless safety repairs are necessary. – With Wendell Vigilia and Myla Iglesias