The country’s hosting of the 2019 Southeast Asian Games hit a major roadblock when it was revealed that the Senate slashed the proposed P7.5-billion budget by 33 percent, the Phisgoc (Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee) said yesterday.

Phisgoc chairman Alan Peter Cayetano told reporters during a sponsorship signing at the SM Aura yesterday that from P7.5-billion, the Phisgoc was told to make the most out of a P5-B budget to run the Nov. 30-Dec. 11 sportsfest.

Cayetano lamented the Senate’s move to cut the budget, stressing that if it had been for nobler reason like education or healthcare, he would have understood.

“If you were to go to a free education or hospital, it would be more than a privilege to support it even if the organizers were heavily recalibrated losing 33 percent,” said Cayetano, who used to head the Foreign Affairs department.

But instead, the P2.5-B will not be used for that, he said.

“The problem is that it goes to projects of senators. Unspecified projects by senators,” said Cayetano.

To remedy the problem, Cayetano, alongside the leaders of the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) and Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) were set to meet with Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea at Malacanang on Wednesday.

“Give us a week or 10 days,” said Cayetano, who is joining hands with PSC chairman William ‘Butch’ Ramirez and POC president Ricky Vargas to help raise at least R1-billion from private and public funds.

The 2019 SEAG will have the New Clark Green City in Capas, Tarlac, and various cities and provinces in Metro Manila and Luzon as competition venues and the Phisgoc is not only attempting to win the overall crown but make a lasting impression.

Phisgoc Executive Director Ramon Suzara said surpassing the staging of previous hosts Singapore and Malaysia as hosts is tops on their agenda.

“We would like to show everyone how it should be done. We want to elevate the hosting to a new level, to something that we have not seen before,” said Suzara, noting that the tapping of worldwide sponsors like Media Pro, CGL Events, Grand Sport, Sonak, Philippine Airlines and Atos, which has a vast experience handling the Olympic Games, is proof of the country’s intent.

But Ramirez, while also in agreement with Cayetano’s bid of pulling off a memorable hosting, insists that the PSC is ready to take on the challenge despite the slashed budget.

“We will do our best to run it (with limited funds),” said Ramirez, adding that it remains unclear which is the Phisgoc’s ultimate task: putting premium on winning the overall crown or unforgettable hosting.

In 2005, the last time the country hosted the SEAG, the budget was P500 million and the Philippines took the No. 1 spot in the leaderboard.

Still, it was a bare-bones staging, something Cayetano’s team isn’t too keen to follow, knowing that the country can do much better than that by making the SEAG a high-level event that will have traces of Asian Games

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