SENATE sports committee chair Christopher “Bong” Go yesterday said he will conduct an investigation into the workings of the organizing committee of the 30th Southeast Asian Games after the games end so as not to distract the athletes fighting for flag and country.
“Being the chair of the senate committee on sports and a member of the blue ribbon committee, I am ready to conduct an investigation on the failures. But for now, we must win as one,” Go said, referring to reports f the failure of the local organizers to meet the demands of a multi-nation event, including accommodation, transportation and other basic needs of foreign delegates.
In an interview with dzBB, Go pointed out that organizers had claimed the needed facilities were 90 percent complete as early as “weeks and months ago” but was dismayed by reports showing that athletes from visiting countries such as Timor-Leste, Myanmar, Cambodia, and Singapore have been inconvenienced by delays in their transportation and hotel accommodations, among others. Even Filipino athletes have aired complaints over the food being served and their accommodations.
The administration set the budget for the regional games at P6 billion.
“We had enough time to prepare for the SEA Games. I have always been inquiring from the organizers on the progress of the preparations the past weeks, months, and they keep on replying that it is already 90 percent complete. Mere apology is not acceptable for these failures, we need to wake them up,” Go said.
He said there seems to be an apparent misunderstanding among the three organizations involved in the games – the Philippine SEA Games Organizing Committee (Phisgoc), Philippine Sports Commission (PSC), and the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC). He hinted that one these agencies wanted the games to fail but did not identify which one.
“As I see it, they seem to be acting on their own and there is this one group which wants the event to fail,” he said, adding politics has gotten in the way.
He called on the Phisgoc, PSC, and POC to get their acts together as the games start officially this Saturday. Go said Phisgoc should have tapped the Department of Tourism to help in hotel accommodations and the PNP in the security of the delegates.
Asked what the President’s sentiments on the issue, Go said Duterte wants officials to concentrate on hosting and deal with the blunders later.
Sen. Emmanuel Pacquiao, who will be torch bearer for the opening, agreed that there should be an investigation after the games.
He said he visited the delegates from Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia who are staying at the New Clark City in Tarlac and found them in high spirits.
“I asked them ‘how’s your food?’ They said they like the food served them, it’s very delicious. Those were their reactions which I relayed to you (media),” Pacquiao said.
Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano insisted that many of the problems dogging the SEA Games would have been addressed earlier if not for the delay in the approval of the 2019 national budget.
Speaking to reporters Monday night, Cayetano, also the chairman of the Philippine Southeast Asian Games Committee, said he agrees with the points raised by Deputy Speaker Michael Romero that the budget snag set back groundwork by a few months.
Photos of unfinished game venues posted online as well as complaints by Filipino and foreign athletes about poor accommodations, food, and transportation triggered a barrage of criticisms directed at the biennial meet organizer.
Cayetano had met with sports delegations from Myanmar, Timor Leste, Singapore and Cambodia to personally apologize about the problems they have encountered upon their arrival and issued assurance that these issues are being addressed.
Romero, in an earlier TV interview, said many of the planning and logistical problems could have been threshed out earlier if not for the five to six months of delay in the approval of the budget, a point Cayetano concurred with.
“He was right. It was Sen. Franklin Drilon who moved the budget of the SEA Games to the PSC (Philippine Sports Commission) and …proposed cutting it by 33 percent,” the Speaker said.
The House leader said last-minute kinks in hosting a multi-event like the SEA Games is nothing new.
He pointed out the experience cited by Filipino athletes who have competed in sports events in other countries, including the SEA Games, Asian Games, and even the Olympics where the local contingent also encountered problems that were promptly addressed.
An organization of nutritionists lamented the quality of the food being served to athletes competing in the Games, saying they are inadequate to their nutritional needs.
Philippine Association for the Study of Overweight and Obesity vice President Nemencio Nicodemus said having rice and kikiam and egg as breakfast for the athletes are insufficient considering the physical activities they go through.
The Department of Labor and Employment reminded contractors engaged in the SEA Games to strictly comply with occupational safety and health standards or face administrative sanctions.
In a press conference, DOLE Secretary Silvestre Bello III said it is imperative for all contractors working on different venues of the Games to ensure that their workers have the proper personal protective equipment and that their safety is assured.
“Part of our mandate is to see to it that they comply with occupational safety and health standards. Workers should have safety equipment. That is one of the reasons why our offices regularly inspect job sites,” said Bello. – With Peter Tabingo and Gerard Naval