SEA Games: Are we ready?
AS A MATTER OF FACT - Sara Soliven De Guzman (The Philippine Star) - November 18, 2019 - 12:00am

Are all our Filipino Southeast Asian Games (SEA) athletes ready to face their challengers?  There will be an estimate of more than 10,000 athletes in 530 events, 56 sports and 63 disciplines. Personally, I think they are ready but every athlete will not admit to it. If they win, everyone will be happy. If they lose, brace yourselves because fans and spectators will blame the Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee, Philippine Olympic Committee, Philippine Sports Commission for not giving enough support.

Are all venues ready for the games? The Clark Cluster has 11 venues: Aquatic Center, New Clark City (for Aquatic Sports), Athletic Stadium, New Clark City (for Athletics), Clark Global City (for Obstacle Courses, Petanque, Lawn Bowls), Pradera Verde, Lubao (for Shooting), Clark Parade Ground (for Archery, Rugby), The Villages (for Baseball, Softball), Royce Hotel (for Dancesport), Luisita Golf (for Golf), Laus Group Event Center, San Fernando (for Kurash, Judo, Jiu Jitsu), Angeles University Foundation (for Arnis, Sambo, Wrestling) and DECA Wakeboard Park (for Wakeboarding).

The Manila Cluster has 17 venues: Makati Coliseum (for Badminton), Star Mall Edsa (for Bowling), MOA Arena (for Basketball 5x5), Filoil Flying Arena, San Juan (for Basketball 3x3, ESports), PICC Forum 2-3 (for Boxing), Cuneta Astrodome (for Kickboxing), Manila Hotel Tent (for Billiard), RMSC Football Stadium (for Men’s Football), RMSC Basketball Coliseum (for Gymnastics), RMSC Ninoy Aquino Stadium (for Weightlifting, Taekwondo), RMSC Tennis Courts (for Tennis, Soft Tennis, Squash), SM Mall of Asia Ice Rink (for Ice Hockey), SM Megamall (for Ice Skating, Figure Skating, Speed Skating), World Trade Center (for Wushu, Karate, Fencing), Phil Sports Arena (for Volleyball).

The Subic Cluster has 8 venues: Malawaan Park (for Dragon Boat, Kayak, Canoe), Traveler’s Lodge Hotel (for Chess), SBECC (for Muay, Pencak Silat, Table Tennis), Subic Bay Boardwalk (for Triathlon, Duathlon, Aquatics Open Water Swimming, Modern Day Pentathlon), Light House Hotel (for Wind Surfing), Subic Gym (for Sepak Takraw), Subic Tennis Court (for Beach Handball, Beach Volleyball), Triboa Bay (for Rowing).

Other Areas in 7 venues: Romero Sports Club/ Zobel Farm (for Polo), Tagaytay (for Cycling, BMX, Skateboarding), Biñan Football Stadium (for football), San Juan, La Union (for Surfing), Vermosa Sports Hub (for Underwater Hockey), Sta. Rosa Sports Complex (for Netball), LB Centro Mall/ Convention Center (for Floorball, Indoor Hockey).

Reading all the clusters and venues, Filipino daily commuters must beware of the traffic mess these events will lead us to. Last week’s simulation worked out for the MMDA and the SEA Games Committee but not for us. Knowing that traffic is a major problem in this country, why do we keep on volunteering or bidding for such gargantuan events? We should fix up our infrastructure first before being too aggressive and ambitious. Filipinos need to work and go to school. Cancelling work and school will not help at all. Please don’t get used to this superficial, silly, cosmetic fix. So, even with the road simulations, are we ready for traffic? No, because many of us will sacrifice and even lose a day or two or three or worst a week of work or school. Sanamagan!

The opening ceremonies will be held at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan on November 30, Bonifacio Day (a public holiday and a Saturday). Stay home and watch on your TV screens unless you want to watch it up close and personal. The ceremonies will surely be a treat. It will be an opportunity for our country to showcase our talent, colors and culture. World gymnastics champion Carlos Yulo will be the torch bearer for the opening rites, while Hidilyn Diaz, EJ Obiena, Eumir Marcial, Nesthy Petecio, Margielyn Didal, and Kiyomi Watanabe will be the flag bearers of the Philippines. Another highlight of the SEA Games opening program is the performance of world-renowned artist of the Blackeyed Peas. The closing ceremony will be held at the New Clark City (NCC) Athletic Stadium where another extravaganza awaits us.

 Reality check: Not all venues are ready. Last minute changes and construction works are being done. IT management systems for registration, scores, etc. seem to still be up on the air due to some mishaps. Communication systems are not enough. Transportation readiness is still iffy. Many sports facilities and equipment are not yet installed. Red tape is not helping at all! Corruption is still a problem. In the end, the Filipino taxpayer will take the brunt. 

 The 2019 SEA Games organizing committee is headed by Alan Peter Cayetano in collaboration with Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) Chairman William “Butch” Ramirez, and Philippine Olympic Committee President Bambol Tolentino. According to Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) Chairman William “Butch” Ramirez, there are two reasons for the delayed preparations. “First, the dynamics between POC and PHISGOC officials. Second, the delayed passage of the national budget.” In August 2019, PSC, POC and PHISGOC signed a tripartite agreement and made a commitment to work together. I hope they’re all working together toward a common goal.

The budget for the games was P7.5 billion last time I checked. The P6 billion was provided by the government while the rest was secured by the Philippine SEA Games Organizing Committee (PhiSGOC) Foundation from sponsorship agreements. Government funds were allocated to the Philippine Sports Commission with P5 billion from the funds approved by the Philippine Congress and the remainder coming from the augmentation fund approved by President Rodrigo Duterte. The bulk of the P6.1 billion SEA Games hosting budget was released to the PSC on May 29 – about a month after President Duterte signed the 2019 national budget.

Anyway, I hope and pray that everything will work out in the end for the sake of our country. This event should showcase the best of the Philippines, our hospitality, our culture, traditions, our people, and athletic prowess. Again, our future in the arena of sports will depend on the success or failure of this activity.

As the PHISGOC Chairperson Alan Peter Cayetano promised, “the SEA Games will run smoothly.” Yes, it will and will only be possible at the expense of the Filipinos. Here’s hoping and wishing that one day, our nation and its people will be more prepared so everyone will be happier.

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