Philippines makes U-turn, will host 2019 SEA Games

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines announced Thursday, August 17 it would host the 2019 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, just a month after pulling out citing the escalating cost of war with Islamist militants.

Manila last month said it would not host the 2019 SEA Games to focus on rebuilding Marawi, a southern city which has been ravaged by deadly battles between security forces and Islamist militants for almost three months.  

However, sports officials said Thursday the Philippines would formally notify the SEA Games Federation on Friday of its commitment to host the 2019 edition after securing backing from President Rodrigo Duterte.

"That's absolutely true. I'm 200 percent sure we are hosting the Games," Cynthia Carrion, a board member of the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC), told AFP.

Carrion, also the chef de mission of the Philippines delegation at the 2017 SEA Games, which will begin in Malaysia this weekend, said the government's initial decision "had nothing to do with Marawi" but refused to elaborate. 

Carrion said POC officials met with foreign secretary Alan Peter Cayetano and other Duterte advisers on Wednesday to discuss funding and other matters for the 2019 SEA Games.

The Philippine Sports Commission, which oversees the country's amateur sports development program, said in a separate statement Thursday that Cayetano was named chairman of the organizing committee for the 2019 SEA Games.

The Philippines last hosted the biennial games in 2005, which was also the last time the Philippines topped the medal chart. –