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Focus on what our athletes can do

"Constructive criticism is welcome, but reckless accusations and magnified shortcomings are not. These only tend to damage our standing before the international community."

 

The good news, according to the Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee, is that issues on unfinished venues, food, logistics, and accommodation have all been ironed out before the regional sports meet begins this Saturday.

Much controversy hounded the preparations for the Games, with critics bashing what they claim is the high cost of building new facilities and refurbishing old ones, some even going so far as questioning why the government is spending so much for the sports event. Then there’s the glitches that marked the run-up to the official opening.

When the delegations from other countries started arriving, media focused on the foul-ups in welcoming them. But Phisgoc officials explained, for instance, that the Cambodian delegation arrived the night before they were supposed to without advising the organizers beforehand. Even if the management wanted to check them in, it was impossible because the hotel was fully booked. Nevertheless, the hotel managed to give several of them rooms at 8:25 a.m. the following day. 

The Thai football team complained about the lack of water, but the Century Park Hotel where they were billeted said each team member was given two bottles of water daily, which was in accordance with hotel industry standards. The management also said it would coordinate with the Thai delegation to thresh out their concerns. 

The coaches of the football teams of Myanmar, Timor-Leste and Cambodia said there were unpleasant occurrences, but their focus now is on the competition. The Cambodian coach also remarked that not all arrangements can be expected to be perfect. 

Organizers explained that preparations and arrangements for sports competitions of this massive scale cannot be expected to be without glitches, as other countries have also experienced similar problems in hosting international sports events. The 2010 Commonwealth Games hosted by India, for one, earned criticism left and right because of several accidents inside the sports venues and complaints about the dirty facilities housing athletes, among others.

During the 2017 SEA Games in Malaysia,  the organizers changed the competition venues at the last minute several times. The Thai women’s volleyball team complained of lack of transportation at the airport, while several athletes complained of lack of adequate food served for breakfast. 

But Phisgoc has pointed out the bright spots in their handling of the preparations: Seventy five international arrivals consisting of various delegations,  technical officials, and representatives of the  National Olympic Committees arrived at the NAIA and the Clark International Airport and were billeted in their respective hotels without experiencing any hitches.

Phisgoc chairman, House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, wanted to prepare early for the Games, but the delay in the approval of the 2019 national budget led to logistical problems. The President was able to sign the 2019 budget only in April, setting back government disbursements of funds for this year by at least four months.

Cayetano la­­­mented that the budget for the SEA Games, originally set at P7.5 billion, was cut by a third or by P2.5 billion by the Senate. The Office of the President supplemented the clipped P5 billion budget by P1 billion, bringing the total SEA Games budget to P6 billion, or 20 percent short of the original budget.

Cayetano has said he made sure that every centavo of the SEA Games budget would be prudently spent. He told senators that he would welcome any investigation or post-audit of the SEA Games, confident that its budget would stand any scrutiny. Thus, allegations of wrongdoing or corruption are all baseless.

While Phisgoc says constructive criticism is welcome, reckless accusations and magnified shortcomings are not as these only tend to damage our standing before the international community. Instead, at this point, let’s focus on what our athletes can achieve.

Iloilo utility reaps the whirlwind

Make no enemies where you can make friends. That adage makes eminent sense, particularly for companies that sell products or services.

But that sage advice does not seem to have been taken to heart by Panay Electric Co., the 95-year-old utility that has monopolized the distribution of electricity in Iloilo City since the American colonial period.

Over the years Peco appears to have enraged many of its 65,000 customers and made the city’s legislative council so infuriated with its refusal to act on the concerns of their constituents that it issued a formal resolution to Congress to deny the utility a renewal of its franchise. Now, the city mayor is out to prove he is no lackey of the landed family that owns the company.

Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas, a veteran of Iloilo politics, is no stranger to Peco. In 2006, he approved the recommendation of the City Treasurer’s Office to implement a court ruling that allows the imposition of real estate taxes on privately owned utilities like Peco. In Peco’s case, this imposing a tax on the land where its electricity poles stand on the side of city streets.

When Mayor Treñas returned to city hall after a nine-year stint as the city’s lone representative in Congress, he discovered that Peco had contested his directive and city hall has not received a single centavo because the utility put the money in escrow. The court has ruled in the city’s favor but Peco still refused and asked the Local Assessments Board to re-compute its realty tax arrears.

Mayor Treñas wants a quick resolution of the issue because Peco’s loss of its franchise would force it to cease operations after its current provisional Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity from the Energy Regulatory Authority expires one-and-a-half years from now, when the new franchise-owner, More Power and Electric Corp., completes its takeover of the city’s distribution system.

Peco apparently offered to settle the P90-million tax arrears and the P7-million penalty in several tranches within a couple of years, but the City Treasurer refused.

Already incensed with Peco’s hard-headed refusal to heed his desire to settle the tax issue which could serve as the crown of the city’s revenue collection record, Mayor Treñas was further enraged by the statement of a Peco official dismissing the mayor’s complaint filed with Malacañang against the rising number of electricity pole fires in the city based on the official report of the Bureau of Fire Protection.

The former legislator is a veteran politician who practically grew up in the shadow of his late father, also a former mayor of Iloilo City, and for his stand on two important and politically-sensitive issues he has with Peco—the realty tax arrears and the public complaint about the threat of falling burned Peco electricity poles—to be dismissed nonchalantly by the Peco official was not welcome in city hall.

But there is wisdom in the saying that you can’t fight City Hall. especially since the auction of Peco’s power distribution assets would take away Peco’s lifeline. If it loses its distribution assets, what would it use to distribute electricity to its customers?

If it loses ownership and control of the distribution assets in the Dec. 12 auction, including the 30,000 electricity poles along city streets, what would be Peco’s reason to continue operating unless it is able to redeem these assets within the one-year period allowed by the law?

Here’s the scenario: Unless stopped by a court or a settlement is reached between the city government and Peco, or it redeems its distribution assets by paying its tax arrears, the power utility is likely to go belly up especially when its distribution assets are sold to the highest bidder in the Dec. 12 public auction.

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Topics: Ernesto Hilario , Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee , Southeast Asian Games , SEAG , Panay Electric Co. , Iloilo City
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