SEA Games problems anger Duterte, Phisgoc says they’re resolved

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (3-L) on August 30, 2019 during a visit to Beijing, China. (Photo by How Hwee Young-Pool/Getty Images)

The logistical problems during the first couple of days of the Southeast Asian Games have angered Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte, a presidential spokesman said yesterday.

Delays in getting arriving teams to their accommodation, unfinished venues, and inadequate food for athletes and guests have been reported across mainstream and social media. The Games’ organising committee said yesterday that the problems have been resolved.

Speaking to media at the Asean-Korea Summit currently taking place in Busan, Korea, spokesman Salvador Panelo said: “Let’s put it this way, the President is not pleased (with) what he’s been hearing about certain snafus, certain delays, certain allegations of athletes not being fed properly, athletes arriving late or not on time delivered to their places of rest or residence.

“He’s displeased. He doesn’t want this. There were allegations of fraud coming out in the papers. He doesn’t like that too.”

The Philippines Inquirer reported that Ramon ‘Tats’ Suzara, chief operating officer of Phisgoc, the Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organising Committee, said yesterday: “Two days ago we had a chef de mission meeting, the first one here, and we tackled all the issues, the complaints, the requests and problems of the chef de mission and we have resolved everything.

He called on media and athletes not to put undue emphasis on the problems: “We want to put a rest on this. This is very normal. All of the athletes, you media, always before the opening ceremony there are a lot of adjustments not only here but also in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia. There are a lot of Games that you wait two hours, three hours in the airport so let’s help each other.

“I’m appealing to you, to your colleagues to make stories that are very positive for our athletes. We are here to support our athletes, our government, our organising committee, PSC and POC. Let’s help our athletes win. We are looking to target the overall for this SEA Games.”

The Straits Times reports that presidential spokesman Panelo urged organisers to have contingency measures for potential logistical problems. He was also reported to have supported calls for an investigation into the organisation of the Games once it is over. Philippines Senator Bong Go has said he would start a Senate inquiry into some of the problems.

The Philippines’ Department of Tourism yesterday held an emergency meeting with hotels in Manila to push through measures to improve the welcome that arriving athletes and other guests were experiencing.

There are voices within the country urging media and citizens to look beyond what are potentially teething problems and support the Games. Senator Manny Pacquiao, the former boxer, said problems related to the Games’ facilities should be discussed after the event, and the Philippines’ athletes should get the country’s support during it.