President Rodrigo Duterte, who just arrived back in Manila last night after attending a summit in Seoul, is reportedly unhappy with the countless embarrassing logistical snafus besetting the 2019 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, organized by his ally, House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano.
Presidential mouthpiece Salvador Panelo told state-run radio Radyo Pilipinas yesterday that Duterte was miffed by the numerous problems cropping up over the past few days, including a lack of halal food for Muslim athletes, uncompleted facilities and transportation snags, and even the existence of some way-too-cozy toilets sharing a stall at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
“Of course the president doesn’t like that,” Panelo said in Filipino. “All those failures shouldn’t have happened; it could’ve been remedied easily, that is why the president is angry.”
He added that the logistical issues could have been ironed out had organizers not been slacking off.
Senator and former Duterte assistant Christopher “Bong” Go said in a privilege speech delivered from the floor of the Senate earlier this week that the organizers of the SEA Games will have to face the consequences should they embarrass the Philippines with their incompetence.
“Let me remind everyone that you will be answerable to the president, and most especially to the Filipino people,” Go said in a mix of English and Filipino. “I am therefore delivering this privileged speech to urge PSC [Philippine Sports Commission], POC [Philippine Olympic Committee], and PHISGOC [Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee], and all Filipinos, let’s not allow this to fail.”
Go vowed on Monday that he would initiate a Senate probe to delve into why the games became such a mess.
On Sunday, before many of the various problems had come to light, Panelo said that Duterte was unlikely to fire the organizing team.
“I don’t think it would come to that,” he said while still in South Korea.
Meanwhile, the embarrassing snafus continue to pile up.
Most recently, a Muslim delegate from Indonesia accidentally ate pork yesterday because organizers were unable to make the distinction between halal and non-halal food. Many of the foreign athletes and officials participating in the games are from predominantly Muslim countries or countries with large Muslim communities.
Controversy over halal foods has plagued the games so far, with the Whitewoods Convention and Leisure Hotel, one of the hotels where SEA games athletes had been billeted, forced to release a statement to the Philippine Sports Commission today denying it had served muslim athletes pork kikiam, a type of sausage. The hotel had said that they had proof from a food audit team that the sausage was, in fact, chicken.
The halal hiccups, however, could have been avoided.
The National Commission on Muslim Filipinos said yesterday that their offer to provide halal food for foreign contingents to the games was ignored by the head of the event’s organizing committee, Speaker Cayetano himself. Bruce Lim, executive chef for the SEA Games, earlier this week insisted that the food served up at the athletes’ village at New Clark City will be varied and will include halal certified dishes.
Meanwhile, with some facilities in questionable states of completion, Southridge, a private school in Alabang, has offered the use of their artificial pitch as a practice venue for Filipino athletes. Philippine Football Federation President Mariano Araneta announced the offer yesterday, noting the “well-meaning individuals and companies that are willing to help us to make this SEA Games successful,” and adding that it was time “to move on and focus on the competition.”