MANILA - The Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee (PHISGOC) has yet to settle P387 million in debt to 30th Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) service providers nearly a year after the regional meet, a sports commission official said Tuesday.
PHISGOC incurred debts as it was only given a P6.8-billion budget for the country's hosting of the 30th SEA Games, "way below" the estimated P7.5-billion cost of the sports event, Philippine Sports Commission Executive Director Guillermo Iroy said during a Senate budget hearing.
"Because of the impact of the SEA Games, participants and guests surpassed the number as expected," Iroy said.
A bulk of the PHISGOC's budget was spent on "sports equipment" and for the "international broadcast" of the sporting events, he said.
"The opening of the SEA games, the live coverage, that is one of the big ticket expenses," he said.
But Senate Committee on Sports chair Christopher "Bong" Go said that among those who have yet to be paid were "small" van drivers who were hired to augment transportation for athletes and staff members to and from game venues.
"Nakakalungkot naman. Ang saya-saya natin nung SEA Games opening. Nagsara tayo, napakasaya, very proud tayo sa ating achievements. Pero merong mga Pilipino na nalulungkot, humahabol... sabi, hindi nabayaran. Bakit ganun?" Go said.
"Ilang months na po... Mag-iisang taon na since the hosting of the Southeast Asian Games, tapos di pa rin sila nababayaran," he lamented.
Iroy said they are expecting the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to release the P387 million "soon."
"There are too many demand letters we received from suppliers," he said.
While PHISGOC was the private entity that signed contracts with SEA Games services providers - the government, through the PSC - is listed as its guarantor.
Sen. Nancy Binay noted that PHISGOC, a private foundation created to oversee the Philippines' SEA Games hosting, technically passed on its debt to the public.
"Pamahalaan 'yung nagkautang bigla, when it was PHISGOC who entered into the contract," she said.
"Sila 'yung nag-enter into a contract. Pero, ang magbabayad ng utang nila, taxpayers," she said.
House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano served as PHISGOC's chair.
Last year, Cayetano and his team drew flak for constructing a nearly P50-million cauldron that was used for the opening ceremonies of the 30th SEA Games.
The organization also received millions-worth of donations and aid from the private sector last year after some national teams complained of problems with transportation, accommodation and food.