By Hannah Torregoza
Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara on Friday called for a ceasefire on the raging debates regarding the country’s hosting of the 30th Southeast Asian Games (SEAG) as any negative news about the issue could serve as a distraction to the athletes participating in the event.
Angara said that as the host country for the 30th SEAG, the entire nation must be united and show its ASEAN neighbors what the world-famous Filipino hospitality is all about.
The senator said the negative talk should cease especially once the athletes start arriving for the opening of the event on November 30.
“Hosting ng Games yan. Dapat naka-concentrate tayo dito. Kasi yung mga atleta natin, kapag maraming issue, baka ma-distract e. Dapat naka-focus lang sa mga competition nila, (We’re hosting the Games. We need to concentrate here. Because the athletes, when there are issues, they might be distracted. They need to focus on their competition),” Angara said.
Angara, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said the necessary audit into the expenses made for the Games, including the construction of the facilities, will be done as part of the regular processes of the government.
“Dadaan naman talaga sa auditing ang lahat ng yan. Lahat ng gastusin ng gobyerno ay dadaan talaga sa cost audit (Everything will be audited. All the expenses of the government will pass through a cost audit),” he pointed out.
“Titignan ito ng Commission on Audit (COA). Yun talaga ang trabaho ng ahensya—kung nagastos ba ng tama ng ahensya yung pera dyan, (The COA will look into this. That is their job–to see to it if the government agencies used the money properly),” Angara explained.
Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon had earlier vowed to pursue a Senate probe into the expenses incurred by the government for the hosting of the SEA Games after noting that the cost of the cauldron alone was worth a whopping P50-million.
Drilon had raised concerns over the fact the construction of a new state-of-the-art sports stadium at the New Clark City would be financed by borrowing from a Malaysian bank and payable in five years time.
“We are incurring a loan here. Inutang natin ito from a Malaysian bank payable in five years time at P2.2-billion per year. So it’s a total of P11-billion,” Drilon said.
But Drilon said he will pursue a probe after the SEA Games. “We don’t want to conduct the investigation now. We will look at every angle. We will look at whether or not there is propriety, whether there is luxury, whether there is graft and corruption,” said Drilon.
Angara welcomed Drilon’s pronouncement but noted that officials at the Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA) have already laid out a plan to ensure the facility won’t turn into a ‘white elephant.’
Based on information provided by the BCDA, he said the sports facilities constructed for the SEA Games would eventually make money for the government, which was estimated at a minimum of P100 million annually.
Angara said BCDA president Vince Dizon has informed him that the maintenance of the sports facilities would cost an estimated P188-million a year and that this would be done by the private sector.
The BCDA has also stated that as early as now, three local real estate developers have expressed interest in undertaking the maintenance of the facilities.
“Ganun ang plano nilang gawin para mabawasan yung maintenance cost ng gobyerno kasi may kalakihan din yung gastos sa pag-maintain nito, (That is one of their plans to lessen the maintenance cost of the government because maintaining it also entails huge expense),” Angara said.
The SEA Games will run from November 30 to December 11. The sporting events will be held at different venues including the New Clark City in Pampanga, the Subic Bay Freeport, and Metro Manila but the opening of the SEA Games will be held at the Philippine Arena in Bulacan.