“The budget of the SEA Games was only approved in April, and this is a two-year preparation,” Philippine SEA Games Organizing Committee chief operating officer Ramon Suzara said in an interview with “The Chiefs” aired on Cignal TV’s One News on Monday night.
Ernie Peñaredondo
Budget delay caused SEAG woes – exec
Leo Laparan II (The Philippine Star) - December 4, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The late release of the P6 billion allotted for the country’s hosting of the 30th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games was to blame for the early glitches days before the biennial regional sporting event started last week, according to an official of its organizing committee.

“The budget of the SEA Games was only approved in April, and this is a two-year preparation,” Philippine SEA Games Organizing Committee (PHISGOC) chief operating officer Ramon Suzara said in an interview with “The Chiefs” aired on Cignal TV’s One News on Monday night.

“The money was released after one and a half months, and then, three-fourths of (it went to) to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) for procurement… which took three months. So you can imagine us organizers: it took us only eight months to prepare… because the budget was not approved last year,” Suzara added in mixed English and Filipino.

The PHISGOC executive’s explanation of his side amid questions from the public regarding the snafus came after President Duterte’s pronouncements in a separate television interview early Monday morning that “things could have been avoided if you had used the money correctly.”

“You can do it not really with precision, but had you made most of the money, you could’ve avoided the critical situation, the mishaps. You had so many years to prepare for it, how come ganyan ang nangyari (that was what happened)?” Duterte said, referring to the organizers.

Suzara responded: “Even if you have two years to prepare, if you don’t have the budget, how can you prepare?”

Giving the program further background on what had led to the mess, the official said the budget for the SEA Games should have been approved last year, but faced delays after the country turned down the hosting only to accept it again in 2017.

PHISGOC, chaired by Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, was incorporated in July 2018.

Nothing happened within a year from that point, according to Suzara, as he maintained that the budget approval only last April was the real culprit.

“After one month, it was forwarded to the Philippine Sports Commission. And then, when the PSC received the money after one or two months, that’s the time we (started) preparing the requirements, which we prepared a year ago. Third is that all procurement (were) implemented by the DBM. It’s about P4 billion. All requirements had to go through bidding. That is only the big part,” he said.

“The other part, the PSC also went through bidding because the budget is with the PSC. PHISGOC’s role is only to request requirements, so the operating expenses that we were using were only to pay the technical officials, referees, international delegates,” he added.

All other expenses, such as hotels, transportation, furniture and equipment – provisions that had issues pre-SEA Games opening – were on DBM, according to Suzara.

“It was really public bidding, and (it) takes three months, even more. So even up to the opening ceremony, other (provisions) still had to be delivered because these were just awarded,” he said, as he mentioned that Malacañang, through the Office of the Executive Secretary, is aware of everything.

He also clarified the public’s belief that they were given the actual P6 billion allotment. 

“The money is not with us... So if you are a part of the organizing committee, it’s difficult… because the awarding of procurement from the government was really late also,” the PHISGOC official said.

During the interview, Suzara commended people who were able to deliver despite the glitches, which, for him, are part of the process.

“I think the PHISGOC, the hardworking people, even with the short time, we were able to do something,” he said.

“There are 56 venues. The preparations of the venues under the PSC were delayed because the budget was delayed, and (those are) only four venues. But there are 52 other venues that are so nice, that were ready… So I told the reporters to go visit the other venues instead of focusing on the ugly, unfinished ones that were really rushed, fixed last-minute,” he added.

Asked about the status of the committee’s budget while the SEA Games is ongoing, and given that the national olympic committees made a lot of requests for additional people to come in to observe one week before the opening ceremony, Suzara admitted that they do not have enough.

“There are a lot of observers; Indonesia alone has 250, Malaysia has another 50, then Thailand has another 150,” he said. “The number of sports and temporary facilities, plus the number of delegation that came was really more than what was expected.”

As for criticisms on the opening ceremony at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan last Saturday, Suzara dismissed the negativity by consistently emphasizing the fact that everything in the program was part of the creative aspect of the production under the creative direction of Floy Quintos, including the reportedly pre-taped lighting of the cauldron at New Clark City in Capas, Tarlac.

“It is really the creative concept of the opening ceremony. It was really planned from the start,” he said, as he kept refusing to confirm if the cauldron lighting was pre-taped or not.

“People will not be really satisfied; you cannot please everyone… Those people who are thinking of all the negatives, we just leave it that way, that is their own opinion, but we continue. That makes us stronger, that makes our athletes stronger,” he added.

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