by Nick Giongco
The Philippines is hosting the 2019 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games after all.
The Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) on Wednesday revealed that Malacañang has decided to reconsider its earlier decision of not hosting the biennial sportsfest after a crucial meeting attended by Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, Presidential Special Assistant to the President Bong Go, Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco, and Philippine Sports Commission chairman William “Butch” Ramirez.
“Tuloy na,” said POC president Jose “Peping” Cojuangco, who had written a letter to President Rodrigo Duterte, appealing that the 30th edition of the SEAG proceed as scheduled.
Malacañang had earlier expressed apprehension over the planned hosting considering that the country is in the middle of a major crisis in Mindanao.
Despite the odds, Cojuangco didn’t lose hope in the country’s quest to hold the games, stressing that the POC will also tap private sector and coordinate with the PSC for a successful staging.
The good news came two days before the POC is set to face the SEAG Federation Council in Kuala Lumpur, site of the 29th SEAG that formally kicks off Saturday.
During the meeting, Cojuangco will officially announce that the Philippines will keep its commitment in hosting the 2019 edition.
Cayetano, meanwhile, will occupy a special place in the overall management of the 2019 SEAG, according to Cojuangco.
The last time the Philippines hosted the SEAG was in 2005 when it emerged as the overall champion for the first time.
Cojuangco insists that he will do away with obscure sports to prove to the SEAG member nations that it doesn’t tolerate the usual practice of including extra-terrestrial events in a bid to take the most number of golds.
Ramirez said Go and Cayetano were pivotal in the decision by Malacañang to reconsider.
“They were the ones who made it happen,” said Ramirez, stressing that the PSC is more than willing to join hands with the POC to ensure the success of the 2019 SEAG.
“For the sake of the country, we at the PSC are going to set aside differences with the POC. After, all this is for the country.”