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‘SEAG budget too much’

Julius Manicad

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Former Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) president Jose “Peping” Cojuangco joined the voices calling to reduce the 2019 Southeast Asian Games budget, saying the P7.5 billion fund being proposed by the Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee (Phisgoc) is “too much.”

In a Daily Tribune interview yesterday, the Equestian Association of the Philippines (EAP) president blasted the organizing body for coming up with a “bloated budget proposal.”
He said the budget should be reduced since it covers only the operational expenses for the hosting of the Games. The amount does not include expenses for the construction of the sports complex being built in the New Clark City in Capas, Tarlac under the Bases Conversions Development Authority (BCDA).

Cojuangco was on top of the country’s previous hosting of the Games in 2005.
That year, government allotted only P350 million while around P150 million poured in from the private sector to hike the total budget to P500 million. It led to a successful campaign and the overall title for the Philippines.

Cojuangco claimed the proposed budget was “padded.”

“P7.5 billion? That’s too much,” said Cojuangco, echoing the statement made by Philippine Sports Commission chairman William “Butch” Ramirez to Deputy Speaker Prospero Pichay last week.

“Remember that construction of the sports complex is not yet part of the budget. So, how did it become P7.5 billion?”

Sources said government will pay an additional P9 billion for the facilities built inside the BCDA controlled properties through the “build and transfer scheme.”

Cojuangco said he has a first-hand experience on how the organizing body is pegging the expenses.

“For example, in our sport, equestrian: They said that they would not include it because they need P60 million to host it. P60 million? If they will really spend that much, I will be the first to tell them that we should not hold it anymore.”

A POC source said Pichay is serious in pushing for budget reduction. He also wants it scratched from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) funds as originally planned by Phisgoc head and former Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano.

Pichay said he wants the fund coursed through the PSC.

Cayetano had since resigned as DFA chief to run in one of two districts of Taguig City. The other district has his wife Lani, presently the city mayor, as a congressional candidate.

Since Cayetano’s resignation, newly-appointed DFA Secretary Teddy Locsin said he does not want anything to do with the SEA Games money.

Pichay and Ramirez discussed over the phone last Thursday an amount that is “just right” for the hosting.

A Daily Tribune source said: “Chairman Ramirez said the country spent P500 million in 2005. If we triple that amount given the inflation and additional sports we are hosting, we will spend only P1.5 billion. But to make it easier for the organizing body to operate, Cong. Pichay said P2.5 billion is just right. And P2.5 billion is way, way smaller than their proposed budget of P7.5 billion.”

“Anyway, as Cong. Pichay said, P2.5 billion is just a ballpark figure. This is not yet the actual amount. He is not the lone decision-maker here. He said he will carefully study it and bring it up to Congress in the next few days.”

Cojuangco said if the reduction of budget pushes through, Phisgoc and POC should work doubly hard to raise funds from the private sector.

When he was at the helm of the SEA Games, he and First Gentleman Mike Arroyo managed to raise over P100 million from private donations from 27 giant companies like Nestle, Philippine Airlines, Summit Drinking Water, Hapee Toothpaste and FedEx.

“There are still monies coming in from the private sector,” Cojuangco said. “So, there’s still some additional fund from whatever they will get from the government. They should be able to raise and maximize it.”

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