MANILA, Philippines – A party-list lawmaker on Monday blamed the delay in the approval of the 2019 national budget for some mishaps encountered by the country in its hosting of the 30th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games.
In a media interview, 1-PACMAN Party-list Representative Mikee Romero said the stalled approval of last year’s budget affected the country’s preparation for the games, so organizers had to play catch-up.
“The challenge really is the budget of SEA Games was delayed for six months, so everything else was catching up after that,” Romero said.
“Unfortunately, the Senate had a lot of problems and na-delay ng five ot six months yung budget, so, lahat ng ‘to ay cause ng delay. And you know Senator (Franklin) Drilon is also partly to blame probably because the delay was caused on their side not on the House side,” he added.
The lawmaker argued that all these mishaps such as in logistics, accommodation and venue construction could have been avoided had the 2019 budget been immediately approved.
“If they had approved it and the budget was already available last January, all these mishaps might not have happened – yung delay sa construction, delay sa food. We’re hosting all the royalties of Brunei and Malaysia, ang dami ring delay because delayed din na budget,” he said.
In response, Drilon said Romero’s claims are “misplaced” and “baseless,” saying the delay in the passage of the budget was caused by the alleged illegal insertions “blatantly” made by House members.
He also called Romero’s allegations as an insult to the Senate’s leadership.
“Kung pinayagan po nating makalusot itong P95.3 billion pork barrel, kaya nitong punuin yung P50 million na kaldero sa SEA Games,” Drilon said.
The senator also pointed out that he made an effort to pave the way for the resolution of the budget impasse.
“Had it not been for my efforts, certain quarters in the administration would have pushed through with recommending to the president the veto of the entire 2019 budget,” he said, adding that Romeo should refrain from issuing irresponsible statements.
Delegates from at least four countries – Timor-Leste, Cambodia, Myanmar and Thailand – encountered accommodation and transportation issues following their arrival in the country over the weekend.
The mishaps prompted the Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee (PHISGOC) to apologize over the issues.
Romero said mishaps are expected when hosting big events like the SEA Games where thousands of delegates are expected to participate.
He also pointed out that other countries that previously hosted the games also encountered troubles, citing the time when he was still playing for the Philippines’ polo team.
“It’s nothing new pero we played gracious hosts. I challenge PHISGOC and everyone else, they have to double time our work, we have to be hospitable,” he said. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Vincent Arboleda)
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