Let athletes focus on SEA Games: Ping

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    ISSUES over the perceived extravagant preparations for the 30th Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) are better discussed after the games to allow athletes and organizers to focus on the sporting event, Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson said yesterday.

    Lacson said criticisms of supposed excessive spending should be pushed to the backburner for now so as not to distract the attention of athletes and organizers.

    “There’s a time for that. I’d rather that we discuss that or even investigate after the games. Kasi baka pati athletes maapektuhan, hindi maka focus, kasi baka magkaroon ng perception na mali or tama… pati organizers, baka madiskaril ang focus nila para maayos ang pagdadaos ng games sa atin (Because even the athletes might be affected, they may lose focus as they might have a perception that this is right or wrong…The focus of the organizers might be derailed, too, that may have an adverse effect on the games),” Lacson said at the Kapihan sa Senado media forum.

    Lacson made the appeal in reaction to criticisms made by Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon that organizers spent too much for the preparations for the SEA Games, which will be held from November 30 to December 11.

    Drilon, during the budget deliberations on the proposed P15 billion budget of the Philippine Sports Commission, had questioned the P9.5 billion budget to build the New Clark City in Tarlac where only two sporting events (track and field and swimming), and the P55 million for the construction of the giant cauldron at the New Clark City stadium which will be used during the torch-lighting ceremonies.

    Drilon said that instead of holding the track and field and swimming events at the New Clark City facility, these could have instead been scheduled at the Rizal Memorial Coliseum which can be refurbished at the cost of only P1.2 billion.

    The opposition senator said organizers spent extravagantly for the cauldron when the P55 million budget could have been allocated to address the classroom shortage by building at least 50 classrooms priced at P1 million each.

    Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano had defended there was nothing extravagant about the cauldron since this was a “work of art” that will represent the country in the international sports event.

    President Duterte had likewise said there was nothing excessive or corrupt about the billions of pesos spent for preparations for the event.

    Yesterday, Drilon apologized to Bases Conversion Development Authority chair Vince Dizon for saying that the latter was a son-in-law of national artist Francisco “Bobby” Mañosa, who designed the cauldron.

    Drilon issued the statement hours after he guested in an ABS CBN News Channel talk show which tackled issues related to the P55 million cauldron.

    “I would like to correct my statement in Headstart this morning (Nov. 21) about the relationship of the architect who built the SEA Games cauldron, the late Architect Bobby Mañosa, and BCDA President Vince Dizon. They are not related. I was wrong in my information. I apologize to Dizon,” Drilon said.

    During the budget deliberations, Senate finance committee chair Juan Edgardo Angara said the cauldron’s design cost was at P4.4 million, its foundation costs P13.4 million, and the total construction reached around P32 million.

    CAYETANO VS AQUINO

    What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

    This was how Cayetano slammed former president Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III for questioning the P55-million worth cauldron, saying the former president seemed to have forgotten that he had once asked the Senate not to criticize the P10 billion budget for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ Meeting in 2015 during his incumbency.

    “Nakalimutan niya na kinausap niya ako nung ako ay Majority Leader sa Senado at nakita ko sa budget, 10 billion pesos para sa APEC. Sa APEC po. At ano ang sabi niya sa amin?

    ‘Huwag kayong mag-ingay before and during dahil lahat ng bansa, international press, nandito.’ (He seems to have forgotten that he had once approached me when I was Senate majority leader after I saw a P10 billion budget for the APEC and what did he say to us then? ‘Don’t make a fuss before and during [the APEC meeting] because all the countries and international press are here,’” Cayetano said in a speech during an inspection of the SEA Games sports facilities at the New Clark City in Capas, Tarlac.

    Cayetano said he was wondering then why there seemed to be extravagance in spending for the APEC meeting but Aquino defended the budget.

    “Sir, bakit medyo magarbo ‘yung mga gala night, ibang mga kagamitan?” (Sir, why does the gala night and the facilities seem to be luxurious?)” The Speaker recalled himself asking Aquino, who supposedly replied: “Boss, representasyon ‘to ng ating bansa (Boss, this is a representation of our country).”

    The former president and his allies in the Liberal Party have been pouncing on the cost of the cauldron.

    Cayetano earlier said the cauldron is actually even cheaper compared to the P62 million cauldron of Singapore in 2015 and P85 million cauldron of Malaysia in 2017.

    Aquino said last Thursday that the government should have prioritized more important projects, adding that the cauldron will only be used for a few days.

    Cayetano, chairman of the Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee (PHISGOC), said the opposition is obviously just gearing for the 2022 national elections.

    “I said, don’t worry. After the games, kahit araw-arawin niyo ‘ko, ako haharap. Ako sasagot. Kung may kailangan idemanda, ako idemanda niyo. Pero ‘wag before and during the games. E araw-araw nasa TV e. Talagang ‘yung all-talk lang, Operation: All-Talk Lang, parang 2022 na siguro nasa isip (I said don’t worry. After the games you can hit me every day and I’ll face you. I’ll be the one to answer. If you have a case, file it but not before and during the games. The problem is they’re on TV every day. It’s just all-talk, it’s just Operation: All Talk. They’re probably thinking for 2022),” said the Speaker.

    Cayetano said the government could have built 10,000 classrooms from the APEC budget in 2015 but the opposition has been training their guns on the P55 million cauldron.

    “Ilan ba ang dapat nagawang classroom kung hindi natin hinost ang APEC? 10,000 classrooms, tapos sasabihin nila, simbolo ng SEA Games, simbolo po ng ating mga atleta, fighting spirit of the Filipino, P50 million, titirahin nila (How many classrooms could have been built if we didn’t host the APEC? We could have built 10,000 classrooms and now they’ll criticize this (cauldron) which is a symbol of our athletes, the fighting spirit of the Filipino),” he said.

    “Walang nagsasabi na it’s excessive or overpriced. E ‘di anong issue? Namamahalan kayo sa P50 million, pero sa P10 billion, okay lang sa inyo (No one is claiming that it’s overpriced so what’s the issue? You think P50 million is expensive but the P10 billion is okay to you?)” Cayetano added.

    The Speaker said the cauldron, the final work of art of Mañosa, can be sold for as much as P100 million because “it’s priceless, it’s part of the history and culture of the Philippines, of Clark.”

    Dasmariñas City Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. called for a ceasefire on the political bickering surrounding the 2019 SEA Games.

    “The cauldron issue in which the President had to intervene should be set aside to focus on the SEA Games and the athletes. As President Rodrigo Duterte stated, the cauldron is a work of art—an intellectual creation—which could not be the subject of exact pecuniary estimation. I call on everybody not to be swayed by the cauldron issue and instead focus on the biennial regional multi-sport event,” he said.

    Barzaga who has some of his homegrown athletes competing in the 2019 SEA Games suggested an increase in the cash incentives of the winning athletes.

    The lawmaker said he had been informed that the present proposed incentives for gold medalists is P300,000; P150,000 for silver medalists; and P60,000 for bronze medalists.

    However, Asian Game winners shall be given P2,000,000 for gold medalists; P1,000,000 for silver medalists; and P400,000 for bronze medalists. On the other hand, in the Olympics, gold, silver, and bronze medalists shall receive P10,000,000; 5,000,000; and P2,000,000 respectively.

    Barzaga said that considering that the New Clark City facilities cost P9.5 billion to build and P7.5 billion is allotted for the hosting of the SEA Games, the incentives for the SEA Game medalists are indeed small.

    Barzaga suggested that gold medalists be given P1,000,000; silver medalists with P500,000; and P300,000 for bronze medalists.

    “Should the present funds for incentives be insufficient, then there should be a realignment in the proposed budget for 2020 to cover the said increase in the incentives. After all, our Filipino athletes should be properly rewarded,” he said. – With Wendell Vigilia