MANILA (3rd UPDATE)- The Philippines withdrew from hosting the 2019 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, citing the government's decision to pull out funding and use the money instead for the restoration of conflict-hit areas in Mindanao.
“Due to the current situation in Mindanao and the problem of terrorism and atrocities, we regret to inform you that we will no longer push through with the hosting of the biennial event,” Philippine Sports Commission chairman William Ramirez said in his letter addressed to Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) president Jose “Peping” Cojuangco.
“It has been resolved that government resources be focused in the rehabilitation and rebuilding of Mindanao, especially Marawi.”
Ramirez assured that the government will continue to support the country’s campaign in the 29th SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur and the 2020 Olympics.
“When all is clear and peace and order has improved after 2020 Olympics and in the future, we are positive and willing to host the SEA Games or any other international sporting events,” he added.
In a press briefing at the PSC administration building at Rizal Memorial Complex, Ramirez said that the decision “emanates from the President (Rodrigo Duterte) and through the Executive Secretary. I will be a good soldier for my boss.”
He bared that he and Senator Miguel Zubiri, who had been appointed by Duterte to oversee hosting operations, were called to the Palace Wednesday afternoon by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea to finalize the decision before sending his letter to the POC.
“I also informed POC secretary-general Steve Hontiveros last (Wednesday) night in a telephone call about the decision,” the PSC chairman said.
The Philippines was awarded the hosting of the SEA Games during the SEA Games Federation meeting in 2015 coinciding with the 29th Singapore SEAG when original host Brunei begged off, citing the lack of facilities and manpower.
Manila and Davao City were the top choices to hold the international competition.
The last time the country hosted the Games was in 2005, when the country emerged as the top-performing nation, amassing 113 gold medals.
In the 2015 Games in Singapore, the Philippines settled for sixth place, pocketing 29 gold medals.
(For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website.)