Senator Franklin Drilon has been scoring political points by questioning the cost of an elevated cauldron to be used in the torch lighting ceremony of the 30th Southeast Asian Games hosted this year by the Philippines.
This he has done by juxtaposing the Filipino term for a lowly kitchen implement, the kaldero
, with its cost, P50 million, and observing that for the same amount, the country could have gained 50 more classrooms.
“A P50-million kaldero
. Do you realize that at P1 million per classroom this can construct 50 classrooms?” Drilon pointed out during deliberations on the proposed 2020 budget for the Bases Conversion and Development Authority. “In other words, we did away with 50 classrooms in exchange for one kaldero
, is this a correct conclusion?”
The math is right, but the conclusion—maybe not so simple.
We do not imagine, for instance, that members of the SEA Games organizers sitting down one day and deciding to forgo 50 classrooms in favor of the torch lighting tower.
The budget for the SEA Games, after all, was a lump sum in the 2019 national budget, so the decision to build a torch tower in favor of 50 classrooms had already been made by Congress, when it approved the allocation for this year’s regional sports event.
Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, who chairs the Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee, notes that the cauldron, designed by national artist for architecture Bobby Mañosa, is not just a large casserole, but a towering structure that would keep the SEA Games’ symbolic flame burning for 11 days.
The cauldron itself amounts to P7 million, but an P18-million mechanism is required to keep the flame lit for about 264 straight hours, he said, and another P17 million is allocated for development of the monument’s site at the New Clark City Athletics Stadium. The government will need another P5 million to keep the flame burning for 11 days, he added.
Seen from this perspective, the cauldron may be expensive, but not unreasonable. Certainly, we cannot put a price tag on our national pride.
After all, it is not every year that the country hosts the prestigious biennial multi-sport event involving participants from the current 11 countries of Southeast Asia. The last time it did was in 2005, and before that in 1991.
Besides, all these expenses can be audited after the games are over, and the responsible officials may be made to answer for any anomalies found. In the meantime, equating the SEA Games torch to a P50-million kaldero
that cost us 50 classrooms—that’s just taking cheap pot shots at an easy target.