MANILA - Less than three months before the Philippines' hosting of the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, the chief operating officer (COO) of the organizing committee became the latest to fall in the country's handling of the regional event.
House Speaker Alan Cayetano, chairman of the Philippine SEA Games Organizing Committee (PHISGOC), said in an interview that PHISGOC COO Ramon Suzara will soon be replaced by a team of sports officials.
Currently in Japan for commitments related to the 2020 Olympics, Suzara was in charge of planning for the SEA Games. He could not be reached for comment, as of posting.
Cayetano said that since the SEA Games' planning stage was almost over, there is now a need to appoint people to oversee the day-to-day preparations for the games, which will open in November. The new team will include Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) chair William Ramirez.
"Nandoon na tayo sa day-to-day operations. But the partnership of the POC (Philippine Olympic Committee) PSC, and PHISGOC will continue," Cayetano said.
Cayetano, however, denied that Suzara resigned or was fired.
"Hindi naman po (Not really). We are just reassessing the role of every single person, especially given na yung iba natin sports leaders, may commitment abroad, like Mr. Suzara, yung sa Olympics," he added.
Cayetano said the PHISGOC Board will meet at the House of Representatives on Wednesday to discuss the creation of the executive committee.
SEA Games preparations, at one point, ultimately led to a change in leadership in the Philippine Olympic Committee, triggered by the resignation of former president Ricky Vargas.
An election was consequently held that brought in Abraham "Bambol" Tolentino as Vargas' replacement and installed a new administration.
Last week, Ramirez said the acquisition of majority of equipment needed for the competition had to be addressed immediately with less than 3 months left before the start of the regional games.
National sports federations had forwarded 61 requests for a number of equipment vital to run the events, but only 18 had been approved via the bidding process conducted by the PSC.
“This is like sprinting in a 100-meter dash. We have no more time. If there are shortcomings, the PSC will fill in the gaps,” Ramirez said.
As much as P600 million has been earmarked to obtain the equipment for use in the different events.
Last July, President Duterte said government should handle preparations for the SEA Games due to alleged corruption in PHISGOC Foundation Inc.
“He (Duterte) said that he doesn’t want the foundation, gusto niya gobyerno. Sabi niya maraming korapsyon diyan sa private kaya nasisira yung mga diskarte ng andiyan, kaya gusto niya gobyerno,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo told reporters.
(He wants the government to handle it. He said there’s too much corruption in the private side that’s why their strategies are ruined, that’s why he wants the government.)
Days later, however, Suzara belied allegations of corruption in PHISGOC and said the P5-billion budget approved by the Congress for the SEA Games this year, as well as the P1-billion augmentation fund approved by the President, were being handled by the PSC.
The SEA Games will be hosted by the Philippines in different venues such as Clark, Subic and Metro Manila. -- with a report from RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News