Philippines does about-turn; still hosting 2019 SEA Games despite ‘miscommunication’

Tungku Imran (left) with Peping Cojuangco at the press conference. Photo: Nigel Chin / Yahoo News Singapore
Tungku Imran (left) with Peping Cojuangco at the press conference. Photo: Nigel Chin / Yahoo News Singapore

The Philippines will remain as hosts of the 2019 Games, said the SEA Games Federation following a committee meeting held on Friday (18 August) at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Previously, it was reported in July that the Philippines Sports Commission wanted to divert the costs of hosting the games to focusing on “the rehabilitation and rebuilding of Mindanao, specifically Marawi”. Media reports also said Thailand would be ready to step in as a host in 2019 if needed, and that 2015 host Singapore would not host the next edition of the games.

“There wasn’t really any cancellation,” Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) president Peping Cojuangco said at the press conference held after the meeting.

“Actually, if you read the (unofficial withdrawal) letter, there was nothing certain about it. It was some kind of idea… that’s why from the beginning, I never uttered or commented anything about it.”

Cojuangco also explained that during Senate meetings, President Rodrigo Duterte was “preoccupied”. It was only after the Marawi affair was over that they could discuss the matter of hosting the games.

“We’ve had the pleasure of meeting some officials of the Philippines government headed by the secretary of foreign affairs, and in that meeting we all came to an agreement that we will continue to host the SEA Games 2019,” Cojuangco said.

The President of the Olympic Committee of Malaysia, Tunku Imran Tuanku Ja’afar, who is also the current SEA Games Federation President, said there was never any doubt that Philippines would host the 2019 Games.

“Essentially, they never pulled out. We were just waiting (for a confirmation),” Tunku Imran said.

“We (the SEA Games Federation) always assumed we would be handing over to Philippines. We just needed a final confirmation that they will be there at the closing ceremony… I don’t think there was a turnaround.”

Cojuangco also revealed that the Philippines Games would be held at the Central Luzon area, in three provinces specifically – Bulacan, Pampanga and Zambales.

When asked if the Philippines plans to set up new facilities specifically for the Games, Cojuangco said there is no need to. “Even without hosting the Sea Games, the two provinces of Pampanga and Zambales, there are already plans to put up training facilities there for Philippines sports. The Philippines Sports Commission have money,” he said.

A sports complex called the Philippines Arena will “most likely” be used in the Games, he added.

Cujuangco said, “We have never failed… many people must know what the Philippines is all about. It’s through the hosting of these events that the people of the world can see what the Philippines and its people are all about.”

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