MANILA – The delay in the approval of the 2019 national budget is the cause of mishaps faced by the country in hosting the 30th Southeast Asian Games, a party-list lawmaker said Monday.
In a television interview, 1-Pacman party-list Rep. Mikee Romero said the approval of the SEA Games budget was delayed for six months, so organizers had to play catch-up.
“Unfortunately, the Senate had a lot of problems and na-delay ng five to six months ‘yung budget (the budget was delayed for five to six months). So lahat ng ‘to ay cause ng delay (So all of these caused the delay). And you know Senator (Franklin) Drilon is also partly to blame probably because the delay was caused on their side not on the House side,” Romero said.
“If they had approved it and the budget was already available last January, all these mishaps might not have happened —‘yung delay sa construction, delay sa food (the delay in construction, delay in food). We’re hosting all the royalties of Brunei and Malaysia, ang dami ring delay, because of delayed din na budget (all of the delays are due to the delay in the budget approval),” he added.
Drilon, in response, said Romero’s accusations are “misplaced” and “baseless”, as he argued that the delay in the passage of the 2019 national budget was caused by billions worth of unconstitutional insertions “blatantly made” by members of the House of Representatives.
“Kung pinayagan po nating makalusot itong PHP95.3-billion pork barrel, kaya nitong punuin yung PHP50 million kaldero sa SEA Games (If we allowed this PHP95.3-billion pork barrel to be passed, it could fill up the PHP50-million cauldron for the SEA Games),” Drilon said.
He added that Romero’s accusation is an insult to the Senate’s leadership.
“The delay in the passage of the 2019 national budget was caused by unconstitutional insertions blatantly made by the House of Representatives in the budget to the tune of PHP 95.3 billion worth of pork barrel funds,” he added.
The Senate Minority Leader likewise pointed out that had it not been for the solution or compromise that he proposed, the 2019 budget impasse might not have been resolved and the government would have continued on a reenacted budget.
“Had it not been for my efforts, certain quarters in the administration would have pushed through with recommending to the President the veto of the entire 2019 budget,” he said.
“Hence, I reject Mr. Romero’s unfounded accusations. Mr. Romero should refrain from issuing irresponsible and baseless statements,” Drilon said.
Last week, Drilon questioned the PHP50-million SEA Games cauldron, which Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, chairman of the Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee (Phisgoc), described as a “symbol of the games” and a “work of art”.
Other Senate leaders also maintained that it was the House of Representatives that caused the delay in the passing of the 2019 budget, contrary to Romero’s claims.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III rejected Romero’s claims, saying the party-list lawmaker “must have his facts mixed up”.
“Nope, we did not. The HOR did. They changed leadership then submitted to us the GAB (General Appropriations Bill) on Nov. 24, which is 55 days late of the usual, then amended the approved bicam version around February of this year which the Senate and the President did not allow,” Sotto said.
Senator Panfilo Lacson echoed Sotto’s sentiments.
“No way. Kasi hindi naman kami ang cause ng delay. Ang naka-cause ng delay, ‘yung PHP75 billion na in-insert pa ng (Because we were not the cause of the delay. What caused the delay was the PHP 75 billion) that was inserted by the) House even after we both ratified the bicam report,” the senator told reporters in an ambush interview.
“So hindi kami dapat ituro kasi ginawa namin yung constitutional duty namin (they should not point at us because we just did our constitutional duty). You can just imagine, kung pinabayaan naming lumusot yung PHP75 billion (if we allowed the PHP 75 billion to pass) only for the sake of passing the budget measure on time, lalong malaking (it would have been a bigger) debacle,” Lacson said.
The organizers were also under fire after some international football teams aired concerns over logistics upon arriving in the country for their respective competitions.
The football teams of Myanmar, Timor-Leste, Cambodia, and Thailand vented frustrations over issues concerning transportation, lodging, and training upon their arrival in Manila.
The Phisgoc has acknowledged the mistakes and apologized for the inconvenience the athletes had experienced.
Phisgoc also 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.” Filane Mikee Cervantes and Jose Cielito Reganit / PNA – northboundasia.com