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Speaker blames senator for SEAG budget delay

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Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano on Tuesday said the Senate failures to approve the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games budget contributed to the problems now besetting the international sporting event hosted this year by the Philippines.

Speaker blames senator for SEAG budget delay
CLEARING THE DECKS. Workers Tuesday walk past ASEAN members’ flags next to the Aquatics Center in New Clark City, in Capas town, Tarlac 110 kms north of Manila, four days ahead of the opening ceremony of the Southeast Asian Games. AFP

Cayetano, who heads the SEA Games organizing committee, joined Deputy Speaker Michael Romero in blaming Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon for the delayed budget approval.

The games have been hounded so far by complaints about poor travel arrangements and accommodations, the lack of halal food prepared as prescribed by Muslim law, and accreditation problems.

But Cayetano put the blame on Drilon.

“Senator Drilon was the one who moved the budget of the SEA Games to the PSC [Philippine Sports Commission] and it was he who proposed cutting it by 33 percent only a few months before [to] P2.5 million, but now he leads the criticism,” Cayetano said.

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He said he did not confront Drilon during a recent Senate hearing because it “was not proper” that they exchanged “harsh words.”

Drilon earlier said he should not be blamed for the delay in the approval of the budget for the SEA Games.

He blamed “unconstitutional insertions blatantly made by the House of Representatives in the budget to the tune of P95.3 billion worth of pork barrel funds” as the major reason for the delay.

Representatives Jericho Nograles of PBA Party-list group and Eric Martinez of Valenzuela, meanwhile, appealed to the critics of the SEA Games organizers to focus on the good side of the event instead of dwelling on the negative aspects.

Nograles, vice chairman of the House committee on youth and sports, said if there is a need to investigate the blunders, Congress is ready to do it.

“Whoever is responsible [for the blunders] will held accountable,” he said but added that the public should focus on the sports event first and the achievements of Filipino athletes.

Martinez shared a similar view, saying the people should “watch and enjoy the games.”

Cayetano earlier visited the teams of Singapore, Myanmar, Timor Leste, Cambodia and Brunei who experienced transportation, accommodation, and other logistical problems even before the formal opening of the SEA Games to personally apologize to them.

READ: Logistical snafu greets athletes

Senate President Vicente Sotto III rejected Cayetano’s assertion that delays in the budget caused the glitches hounding the country’s hosting of the 30th Southeast Asian Games.

“That is a different story, that is not part of the delay of the budget,” Sotto said.

At the time of the deliberations, Drilon had suggested that P7.5 billion was excessive, and when the cuts were done, the House agreed.

“They agreed to that. They should have complained that it’s lacking during the bicam,” said Sotto.

He also played down the remarks of Rep. Lord Allan Velasco that the delay in the budget for the SEA Games did not come from the House of Representatives.

Instead of submitting the budget on Oct.1, the House gave it to the Senate on Nov. 24, Sotto said.

Sotto suggested that Cayetano and Velasco must have been peeved by Drilon’s questioning of the cost of the Games to the government and wanted to get back at him.

Drilon said the public can see they were not the cause of the 2019 budget delay.

“That’s an insult to the Senate leadership. The budget was delayed due to the intent to have that P95 billion pork barrel,” said Drilon.

Senator Christopher Go said the right time for a proper investigation was after the Games have concluded.

In the meantime, Go encouraged Filipinos to root for their athletes instead of gloating at the mistakes of others.

On Tuesday, the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos said it offered to help the SEA Games organizing committee serve halal food to delegates from Islamic countries, but their offer was brushed aside.

Jun Alonto Datu Ramos, external affairs director of NCMF, said his agency approached officials from the Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee about the food problem as early as September.

“We were ignored,” Ramos said.

His statement came after some teams had complained that egg, kikiam, and rice were served for breakfast. Kikiam is a non-halal or “unlawful” food for Muslims since it contains ground pork.

The chef de mission of the Singapore delegation also complained about the “very limited food options” at Century Park Hotel where their athletes are staying.

A New Straits Times report, meanwhile, said the Malaysian contingent was able to anticipate potential problems after learning from SEA Games organizers that halal food will only be available from Nov. 26 onwards at the hotels.

“Halal food is a big problem for those staying in hotels right now as it is difficult to get. We knew about this, so we gave out instant nutritious food which only needed to be heated up for the athletes and officials,” National Sports Council director general Datuk Seri Ahmad Shapawi Ismail was quoted as saying.

The NCMF, Ramos said, has the capacity to provide the manpower and expertise that would have helped avoid these problems.

Some Filipinos on social media have called out the reported mishaps and logistical problems of the regional games, calling the country’s hosting a “national embarrassment.”

Foreign and local journalists also complained of mistaken identities as the SEA Games media IDs were rushed to completion.

Photos of unfinished venues for the games also surfaced online.

But the president of the Philippine Olympic Committee Abraham Tolentino said Tuesday that these problems are “normal.”

Tolentino also insisted that the organizing committee already fixed the “minor glitches” and asked the public to move on from their blunders.

The Phisgoc, led by Cayetano, earlier apologized for the accommodation problems experienced by football athletes.

Days before the grand kick-off of the 2019 SEA Games at the Philippine Arena, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) opened the Ciudad de Victoria Interchange Overpass

Bridge and Bypass Road in Bocaue, Bulacan, which will be used by the delegates as the main route going to the 55,000-seater indoor stadium.

The Ciudad de Victoria Interchange Overpass Bridge and Bypass Road will also address the usual heavy traffic and queuing of vehicles entering the Bocaue interchange, which will reduce travel time to the town of Sta Maria, Bulacan from the usual 50 minutes to 15 minutes.

Public Works Secretary Mark Villar said that the construction of the bypass road and bridge started Januaryand was sped up in time for the opening ceremony of the 30th SEA Games on Saturday, Nov. 30.

Four schools across Metro Manila will suspend classes to ease traffic during the 30th Southeast Asian Games, the Metro Manila Development Authority said. 

These are the Arellano Law School, Dec. 2 to 7; St. Scholastica’s College, Dec. 2 to 7; St. Paul College Pasig, Dec. 2 to 6; and St. Pedro Poveda College, Dec. 2 to 6. With Vito Barcelo

READ: Palace deals SEAG organizers stinging rebuke

READ: 24-hour PNP hotline for SEA Games

READ: Solons demand truce on SEA Games debate

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