By Bernadette Tamayo /Manila Times
Extravagant and unnecessary.
This was how Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon described the cauldron to be lit during the official opening of the 30th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games on November 30.
Drilon yesterday questioned the allotment of P55mn for the installation of the giant cauldron outside the New Clark City Stadium in Tarlac.
The senator said the cauldron, designed by the late Francisco “Bobby” Manosa, National Artist for Architecture, was “too extravagant and strange.”
“Insofar as I’m concerned, P55mn is an extravagance that is so unnecessary and somebody has to answer for this,” he told reporters.
Drilon said the money used to build the cauldron could have constructed 55 schoolrooms.
“One schoolroom costs about P1mn,” he said. “So, 55 schoolrooms could have been completed if not for the abuse of government fund,” he said.
“They cannot say if a bidding was done for this. The CoA must audit this thoroughly,” he added, referring to the Commission in Audit.
He said the P55mn was broken down as follows: cauldron’s design, P4.4mn; the foundation, P13.4mn; and construction, P32mn.
But Drilon clarified that he had no intention of stopping the holding of the Games.
“No. In fact that is why I terminated my interpellation, because we have to support our athletes. This apparent abuse of public funds is not their fault,” he said.
“We need to support them so they can compete and bring honour to our country. But it doesn’t mean that we will not question these expenses,” Drilon added.
But he said he would file a resolution asking the Senate to investigate the matter after the games.
“Let us help the athletes compete first and let us support our athletes. There is time for all of these and the time is after the SEA Games.” Drilon has asked the Senate to summon Tats Suzara, chief operation officer of the Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organising Committee (Phisgoc) to attend the budget deliberation of the Philippine Sports Commission.
Drilon wants to know why Phisgoc, a private entity, had been allotted P700mn in public funds.
Philippine Olympic Committee President Abraham Tolentino agreed with Drilon that an investigation should be opened after the holding of the 30th SEA Games scheduled on November 30 until December 11.
“I hope we finish the Games first before we call an investigation,” Tolentino told Manila Times through a phone interview.
He defended the building of the expensive cauldron.
“We just cannot get a pot and a bamboo here. We are not hosting the National Games. We are talking about Olympics hosting here,” he said.
Meanwhile, Sen. Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go expressed support toward the development of the New Clark City sports hub since it would benefit Filipino athletes, the country’s sports programme, as well as the economy.
“It is a good investment, as this facility will be very useful for us well beyond the time that we will be using it during the 2019 Southeast Asian Games,” he said when the Senate scrutinised the budget for the SEA Games funded by the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA).
The BCDA, however, still needs to demonstrate how it would guarantee the return of investment for the sports facilities, Go said.
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