Sports, after all, is in the priority list of President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration.
This, Foreign Affairs Secretary Peter Cayetano assured yesterday when he announced that the Philippines is pushing through with the hosting the 30th Southeast Asian Games two years from now.
“This is an answered prayers. Glory to God,” the former senator exclaimed during a hastily called early morning press conference held at the Marriot Hotel. “Para sa bayan ito.”
“This also means that while everybody knows the President is a tough guy, he also has a soft heart, especially for sport and for the Filipino athletes,” Cayetano said by way of explaining President Digong’s change of heart.
The decision reversed an earlier verdict, purportedly made by Duterte upon the recommendation of a cluster of cabinet members, rejecting the offer of the SEAG Federation for the country to be the site 2019 edition of the biennial conclave;
The decision to push through with the Games, according to Cayetano, is a fitting follow up to the successful hosting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations ministerial conference held last week.
“Like the ASEAN, the SEA Games Federation, besides providing the avenue for athletes of member countries to meet in competitions, was founded to bring about unity and solidarity among its member countries,” the defeated candidate for the vice presidency in last year’s elections, stressed.
The decision, the foreign secretary added, is in accordance to what President Duterte envisioned as the “New Philippines.”
Reason why, most likely, some of the events could be held in the new ‘City of Clark.’
“This a victory for Philippine sports” Philippine Olympic Committee president Jose “Peping” Cojuangco, who, along with Philippine Sports Commission chair William “Butch” Ramirez was in attendance, butted in.
“Actually we are in win-win situation here,” Cojuangco remarked. Saving the SEA Games in itself is already a victory for the Philippines.”
Only one country, Malaysia earned the honor preventing the Games in going to hibernation when it hosted the 1965 Game in place of Laos.
“Kaya nga napakalaking utang na loob na tatanawin sa atin ng 10 other member countries kung matutuloy ang Games sa 2019 dito,” he said,
“This is not for Peping Cojuangco. This not even for the POC. Ang ibig lang sabihin nito nasa puso ng administrastrasyong ni Pangulong Duterte ang sports,” Cojuangco, who was supposed to leave for Kuala Lumpur, site of the 29th SEA Games, which starts Sunday.
After the media meeting, Cojuangco handed Cayetano his appointment as chair of the Organizing Committee.
The POC head will be attending the SEA Games Federation council meeting set for today to inform the body that the Games will push through. The council meeting will also officially name the POC head its president.
Cojuangco will also be the recipient of the SEA Games Flag during a solemn turnover ceremony during the closing the 2017 Games closing ceremony on August 30.
Cojuangco thanked Cayetano for his efforts in convincing the Chief Executive to change his mind.
Cojuangco also cited the role the sport media played in supporting the project, “particularly The Manila Times, which ran a series of articles justifying why the Philippines should host the 2019 Games.”
The former Tarlac congressman was referring to stories published in The Times detailing how Presidents Marcos, Cory Aquino and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo rejected advice from their men to withdraw government’s support to the hosting of the 1981, 1991 and 2005 Games.
Those Games went into the SEAG Federation’s history as few of most successful in terms of organization, the proper staging and even he circumstances that transpired before they were held.
In 1991, for instance, Mt. Pinatubo months before the Games spewing ash falls that affected several Asian nations and as far as Europe’s. Floods devastated Leyte.