MANILA — Malacañang on Sunday assured the athletes of the 30th Southeast Asian Games that they will have a “pleasant, productive, and memorable” stay in the Philippines, this year’s host of the biennial regional multi-sport event. “We are not promising that the Games will run without a hitch, given the countless athletes who will participate and represent their respective countries,”
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a statement. “But we will exercise due diligence in making sure everyone will have a pleasant, productive, and memorable stay in the Philippines,” he added. Panelo made the assurance following several complaints from foreign football teams about the Philippines’ supposed ill-preparedness for this year’s SEA Games.
Football teams of Myanmar, Timor-Leste, Cambodia, and Thailand vented frustrations over issues concerning transportation, lodging, and training upon their arrival in Manila ahead of the competition. In a statement, the Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee (Phisgoc) acknowledged the mistakes and apologized for the inconvenience the athletes had experienced.
Phisgoc, led by House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, vowed to “do better” by ensuring “proper coordination of the arrival details, airport welcome and transportation provisions of all international teams to their respective assigned hotels.”
Phisgoc explained that it was able to send Timor-Leste football team to Hotel Jen, after they were mistakenly brought to Century Hotel, which is a few minutes away from the athletes’ accommodation.
With regard to the Cambodian football team, Phisgoc said transportation was “immediately provided,” despite the change in their arrival details that were relayed late to the Phisgoc Games Services Department.
However, Phisgoc stressed that it requested the Cambodian team to wait in an air-conditioned private hotel conference room to let them “rest and feel comfortable” while waiting for their rooms since they arrived ahead of the standard 2 p.m. check-in time.
“We sincerely apologize to our athlete guests from Timor-Leste, Myanmar, and Cambodia for the inconvenience caused to them by the confusion regarding their transportation and hotel arrangements,” it said in a press statement.
Phisgoc said the incidents involving the four foreign football teams would serve as a “constant reminder for us as organizers to be more diligent.”
“The incident with the two teams remains a constant reminder for us as organizers to be more diligent. We owe it to our guests and our countrymen,” it added.
For Panelo, incidents of delays in transport and accommodation happen in international sports and games “by reason of the number of countries and athletes involved.”
The Palace official, nevertheless, said the government would not make any excuses, and would instead strive harder to avoid a repeat of such incidents.
“We understand that the Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee has already apologized to our athlete-guests from Timor-Leste, Myanmar, and Cambodia for the inconvenience they experienced when they arrived in the country,” he said.
“We can no longer undo what has been done. The Office of the President will not offer any excuses. As host country, we apologize for the unintentional inconvenience suffered by our athlete-guests,” Panelo added.
Panelo also looked forward to Phisgoc’s commitment to improve its preparations for the upcoming SEA Games.
“We wish all the participating athletes good luck and look forward to their excellent and hopefully world record-breaking performances,” he said.
Panelo was thankful that there is no report of any incident jeopardizing the athletes’ safety and health.
Around 8,750 athletes from Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand, Timor Leste, Singapore, and Vietnam are expected to compete in 530 events in 56 sports.
(With reports from Ivan Steward Saldajeno/PNA)
By Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos/ PNA