Limpag: The SEA Games question

Mike T. Limpag

TRUST an astute senator like Frank Drilon to ask a question that nobody ever thought of asking. What do we do with the brand new sports facilities in Clark once the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games is over? I never thought of that. Heck, based on what I’ve read, my colleagues never even thought of that.

And that question is important. We’ve seen so many Olympic hosts who failed to think of that and they’re left saddled with expensive white elephants.

We avoided that question in 2005 when it was decided then not to build new facilities but use existing ones but this 2019 hosting has been strange from the very beginning. Strange in the fact that we ignored common sense and overstepped ourselves.

First, of course, is how we got the hosting rights. Brunei, our rich neighbor, gave up its rights to host it in 2015 because of financial and logistical concerns. Our oil-rich neighbor was concerned about the finances and here comes the Philippines, thanks to Peping Cojuangco, stepping in as the hero.

So we spent close to P10 billion for the facilities in Clark and the government has no concrete plans on how to raise the P150M to P200M for its upkeep? Sen. Bong Go, who had to spend precious time away as the President’s handler for his other job as senator, said it could be rented out for “concerts and athletics competition.”

How many concerts in a year would you need to raise P200 million? Five a week? And don’t concert organizers prefer Manila over Clark? As for athletics competitions, what exactly are the athletics competitions aligned to make the facilities in Clark useful post-SEA Games? The Palaro? Batang Pinoy? The Philippine National Games? These are all government- funded games.

Another reason put forward is that the facilities could be used for the Philippine Sports Academy. But that’s still in the planning stage.

As expected Senator Drilon is being pilloried for asking this question--how dare he imply Senator Go isn’t a good senator--but the concern is valid. And even if you drown his question in fakes news or drag whatever you can drag about Yolanda or whatnot, this question still deserves an answer: How do we make our brand-new SEA Games facilities useful after the SEA Games?

The obvious answer, for now, and one pointed out when I threw the question on Twitter was to let the national teams use it for training. I agree. We should do that.

But the thing is, a few years ago, there was a plan to transfer some offices to Clark and wasn’t there a huge pushback against that from employees who had to relocate? Do you think it would be easy for our national teams based in Manila to relocate to Clark to justify our new facilities’ existence?

Like Senator Drilon, I fear that our brand new facilities will be our Bird’s Nest post-2008, our Maracana post-2016 but I hope it won’t be. I hope we can find an answer to his question.

But in the current political climate, probing questions aren’t answered, the one who asks them gets attacked. A pity because we need the answer in just a couple of months.