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POC: Gov't agency support can speed up SEA Games 2019 preparations

MANILA, Philippines – Plans for the 2019 Southeast Asian Games may be falling behind schedule but Philippine Olympic Committee president Ricky Vargas got a boost from President Rodrigo Duterte's Executive Order (EO), which instructs all government agencies to assist in the preparations of the biennial meet. 

Vargas, though, admitted he remains anxious with all the disruptions in putting together the regional event. 

"I’m happy that the EO came out. Better late than never and with the continuous collaboration of our chairman in PSC (Butch Ramirez), I’m hopeful that we will be able to perform better," Vargas told reporters. 

On Friday, February 1, the POC president called on the organizations involved to move fast and hoped that the various government agencies will heed the order for the SEA Games to be a success. (READ: PH begins countdown to hosting SEA Games 2019)

Budget woes

The P7.5 billion budget requested by Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee (PHISGOC) chairman Alan Peter Cayetano remains a big problem as it's now being transferred to the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC).

This is a result of Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon's questioning of Cayetano's inclusion of the SEA Games budget in the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA). 

PSC has already submitted a breakdown of the budget and just waiting for the approval of the Senate. 

"The PSC has committed to do all its best to fund the training of the athletes, so we’re going through budget reviews," explained Vargas.

Vargas hopes that the Senate would also be encouraged to approve it right away so as not to impede the athletes' trainings. 

The sports government agency will also be needing the funds in order to continue the construction and renovations of SEA Games venues, but this also forces national sports associations (NSAs) to look for substitute training facilities for their athletes.

"The athletes are already losing time to train, the other facilities are still being made, so the athletes don't have their own traning facilities – that in itself is a disruption," said Vargas. 

With the current pace of the developments, Vargas estimated that the Philippine contingent will lose one to two months worth of training time as the regional event is set to happen on November 30 to December 11. (SEA Games: New Clark City Sports Complex to rise in 9 months)

Athletes vying for a slot in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics will also be affected as the NSAs are expected to allot budget for their members to join the qualifying tournaments and train overseas. 

"So there's [budget for] continuous training and training for the Southeast Asian Games, and for the Olympic qualifiers – the NSAs can't handle all that alone," said Vargas. 

"There’s so much going on – nakakatakot (it's scary)." 

Finalizing plans 

According to Vargas, the PHISGOC is also delayed in promoting the SEA Games as the marketing campaigns both in the Philippines and across the region are still in the process of finalization. 

"We need to move fast. Who are the major sponsors? What's the apparel? What are the marketing campaigns that are going to happen? We still have a lot to do," lamented Vargas. 

As soon as the plans have been finalized, the PHISGOC will start inviting the private sector to collaborate in the hosting of the games. 

For Vargas, a collaboration with the Department of Tourism will be vital to promoting the SEA Games across the country.

The POC president only hopes that the PHISGOC's partners in the public sector will continue to honor their commitments throughout the year. But Vargas is also bracing himself for the challenges that will come as a result of the May 2019 elections. 

"We might get commitments for support, but when those leaderships change, the support changes also, right? So that is a disruption and a challenge." –




Beatrice Go

More commonly known as “Bee”, Beatrice is a multimedia sports reporter for Rappler, who covers Phillippine sports governance, national teams, football and the UAAP. Stay tuned for her news and features on Philippine sports and videos like the Rappler Athlete’s Corner and Rappler Sports Timeout.