MANILA - Speaker and PHISGOC Chairman Allan Peter Cayetano apologized Sunday after some arriving athletes were left stranded for hours at the airport or were driven to the wrong hotel, a logistical snafu that drew criticism just days before the competition starts.
Speaking to reporters, Cayetano said that a lot of the foreign teams participating in the Southeast Asian Games arrived earlier than expected.
"Sa mga foreign teams, talagang we are apologizing for the inconveniences or if I may call it inefficiencies or miscoordination," he said.
Cayetano said that during his time as foreign affairs secretary, he also experienced being unable to check in at a hotel when travelling overseas whenever he arrives early but recognized that this is no excuse.
He said that out of several arrivals yesterday, a great majority were satisfied with the service of the organizing committee.
"Handang handa tayo na magbigay ng world class hosting, but even in world class hostings, tao tayo. Hindi perfect. Doon sa 75 arrivals, a great majority, 95 percent ay medyo natutuwa. For $50 a day, ang gaganda ng hotel na titirahan nila," he said.
Cayetano said athletes should expect better service in the coming days, adding that the Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee (PHISGOC) is working with the immigration and customs bureaus and the Department of Transportation to cater to all the arrivals of the athletes, scheduled or not.
Athletes have begun flying into Manila ahead of Saturday’s opening, but for Cambodia and East Timor's football squads the arrival was not what they were expecting.
"We had to wait maybe like eight, nine hours to get our hotel," Coach Felix Dalmas of Cambodia told a press conference Sunday, adding that they had also waited hours for the shuttle service.
East Timor's team was driven to the wrong hotel, complicating their arrival and training schedules.
"All nations deserve respect and what happened yesterday was not so beautiful," East Timor's coach Fabiano Flora told reporters.
Thailand's football team -- which also waited for hours at the airport for the right documents -- had to change their training plans because the hotel was too far from the venue.
Coach Akira Nishino said they opted to work out in the streets near the hotel instead of spending hours travelling.
The games, the first hosted by the Philippines since 2005, are expected to draw thousands of athletes, journalists and dignitaries over their nearly two-week run.
Smooth functioning logistics will be key to the success of the 56 sports spread across dozens of venues in and around Manila.
PHISGOC chief operating officer Ramon Suzara on Sunday said they have stationed 24-hour buses in NAIA Terminals 1,2 and 3.
"We established since yesterday a 24-hour contingency motor pool of transportation in the airport, in the 3 airports because there are also many delegates who arrived yesterday who were not in the schedule, system," he said.
"We do our best and even the hotels. It's peak season now for all hotels. If we do not push for early booking then we cannot pay but we will do our best to accommodate as soon as possible," he added.
CAYETANO TO BASHERS
Meanwhile, Cayetano bashed critics who attack the Duterte administration's plans when these are already in place.
"Ugali talaga ng Pilipino, ng oposisyon minsan, kung kailan gawa na, saka hihirit na dapat ganito, dapat ganiyan," he said.
He said critics should wait until after the games before bashing the organizers.
"Ang recommendation ko lang hindi wag mag bash. Timing lang kasi kung ngayon ka mag bash, Pilipinas ang tatamaan. After the games, ipunin niyo, i-bash niyo kami," he said.
"This is our hosting. Hosting ng buong sambayanan ito. Hosting ng Pilipinas ito. Hindi ito hosting ng Duterte, ng [Bases Conversion and Development Authority]. Hindi ito hosting ng [Philippine Olympic Committee], hindi ito hosting ng [Philippine Sports Commission], hindi ito hosting ni Cayetano. So mag tulong-tulong tayo because when you bash the organizing committee, if it is to get us to act correctly or to address inefficiency, it's most welcome pero if you bash us for the sake of bashing us or because you don’t want the president or other people to get the credit, ang bina-bash mo sarili mong bansa."
SEA Games organizers have come under fire over a nearly $1-million cauldron that will hold the games' flame.
Critics said the money it cost to build the 50-meter cauldron at the main stadium in Clark, north of Manila, would have been better spent helping the nation's children and poor. With Agence France-Presse