SEAG fund under fire

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REDUCTION LOOMS

The budget for the country’s hosting of the 30th Southeast Asian Games is in danger of being slashed by more than half.

If I’ll have it my way, I’ll definitely recommend for the reduction of the P7.5 billion. That’s too much

Deputy Speaker Prospero Pichay said he would revisit the National Expenditure Program (NEP) after finding out that the P7.5-billion budget proposed by the Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee (Phisgoc) is way too much.

Pichay said he would carefully scrutinize the budget proposal and recommend its reduction if he finds out that the amount only covers the operational expenses for the hosting of the Games and not the construction of sports venues and facilities.

In the country’s previous hosting of the biennial meet in 2005, the government allotted only P350 million, prompting the organizing committee to raise funds from the private sector with First Gentleman Juan Miguel Arroyo serving as spearhead.

The hosting was a massive success with the country clinching 113 gold, 84 silver and 94 bronze medals to bag the overall crown.

Pichay said he reached out to Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) chairman William “Butch” Ramirez to seek his advice, especially since he was on top of the government sports agency at that time and head of delegation of Team Philippines.

“I was just wondering why P7 billion?” said Pichay, hinting that a budget of P2.5 billion will be more than enough to stage the Games.

“So I asked chairman Butch Ramirez how much did they spend in the last SEA Games? He told me that they spent around P500 million. I told him that the P7.5 billion is way too much. He said ‘Yes, that’s too much.’”

“If I’ll have it my way, I’ll definitely recommend for the reduction of the P7.5 billion. That’s too much. But I’m not the only decision-maker here. We have to talk it among ourselves in Congress.”

In the budget deliberation late Thursday, Sen. Franklin Drilon questioned why the P7.5-billion fund for the country’s hosting of the Games was included in the P27.4 billion budget proposed by the Department of Foreign Affairs for 2019.

He said the budget already went through three stages of deliberation but it was still included in the NEP of the DFA even if Phisgoc chairman Alan Peter Cayetano is no longer the secretary of the agency.

Drilon said the budget proposal has to be amended and be allocated to the agency that has mandate over the country’s sports program, in this case, the PSC.

“Certain rules have to be followed. In this particular case, the mandate of DFA has nothing to do with sports development and this is the first time I hear that the DFA is having P7.5 billion for sports development,” Drilon said.

Pichay confirmed Drilon’s statement, saying that allowing the DFA to disburse an amount that is not in its mandate would be a violation of the law.

“The amount of P7.5 billion is way too much for the hosting; even chairman Ramirez is saying that,” said Pichay, who is also a member of the Philippine Olympic Committee executive board.

“That money is supposed to be allocated to the PSC. It is its mandate. Otherwise, they’ll be violating the law.”

Pichay reiterated that he would carefully study the NEP and scrutinize its particulars if the amount also covers the construction of the sports complex that would serve as the main hub of the Games in the New Clark City in Pampanga.

“It’s too much if it’s only for the operations of the events. But again, as I’ve said, we’ll never know if there is fund meant for infrastructure that we don’t know. We’ll check everything on Monday.”

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