OUR government agencies are quick to give statistics on the poverty threshold and involuntary hunger in the country. Twenty one percent of Filipinos live under the poverty line. There are 2.3 million Filipinos who experience involuntary hunger. Studies revealed a ratio of one bed per 1,100 patients in government hospitals. There are 3.5 million Filipinos who do not have sanitary toilets.
At the labor front, 25 percent of employers do not comply with the Department of Labor and Employment’s rules and regulations. Eighty four percent of the labor force are not covered by the minimum wage law. Classroom shortage compels public schools around the country to adopt triple shifts. Overcrowded detention centers and state prisons are indicative of budgetary constraints.
The Philippines is having a problem in providing basic human needs to its citizens. And the world knows that. We cannot even pretend that we are doing something about all the statistical data because the numbers keep going up. Through the years of hunger and poverty aggravated by corruption, we do not need these statistics. We only have to listen well to the sound of an empty stomach, the leaking roof tops, or the concerns of fishermen in the West Philippine Sea and the farmers across the nation affected by the Rice Tariffication Law.
The huge numbers that were revealed during the budget deliberation for the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games are stealing the spotlight from our athletes. For the opening and closing ceremonies: P1.6 million; P40 million for volunteers; The cost of the cauldron for the ceremonies is pegged at P50 million. The SEA Games is costing the Philippines P7.5 billion. The financial burden does not end when the athletes go home after the tournament. The maintenance cost annually for the sports facilities is P188 million.
Sen. Sonny Angara justified the seemingly extravagant cost saying: “We have to give an impressive hosting.” Given the above-mentioned statistics, can we really afford it?”
Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, who was grilled by Sen. Franklin Drilon on the cost of the cauldron, said: “It is a work of art.” Architect Francisco Bobby Menoza was reportedly paid P4.4 million for the design alone. Drilon said the cost of the cauldron could already build 50 classrooms. The opposition senator is calling for the Commission on Audit to check SEA Games expenditures.