The countdown event for the 2019 SEA Games at Clark free port in December. (2019 SEA Games website)

Manila’s hosting of the 30th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games has been thrown into disarray after President Rodrigo Duterte himself questioned why preparations for the biennial event were being managed by a private foundation.

The president wants the 2019 SEA Games taken over by the government, said Palace spokesman Salvador Panelo.

“He said that he doesn’t want the foundation, gusto niya gobyerno (he wants the government to do it),” Panelo told reporters on Tuesday.

Sabi niya maraming korapsyon diyan sa private (He [Duterte] said there’s a lot of corruption in the private sector),” Panelo said.

Preparations for the games were begun by Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano of Taguig when he was foreign secretary. Cayetano however ran for Congress and won in the May 2019 polls.

But Panelo wondered whether Cayetano, who is eyeing the speakership of the House of Representatives, would be able to lead the hosting chores.

Cayetano serves as chairman of the Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizational Committee (Phisgoc).

The pricey P6-billion budget for the games is also in question.

The CEO of Phisgoc, Ramon Suzara, was quoted by the state-run Philippine News Agency as saying there were no irregularities in the funding of the games, as the money was lodged with the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC), a government body.

He said Phisgoc had raised P1.5 billion from private sources as the games needed a total budget of P7.5 billion.

Suzara claimed that talk of replacing the Phisgoc had rattled athletes, sponsors and other private partners.

“All this talk about another body taking over the organization of the Games at this late period has not only caused apprehension among our athletes, but among our sponsors and private sector partners as well,” he said.

He also said the PSC and the Philippine Olympic Committee, which claims to have the right to organize the SEA Games, were represented in Phisgoc.

“We appeal to both the POC and PSC to work together from within the Phisgoc, where they are both prominently represented as originally intended by the president, with his vision of a multi-stakeholder approach to the organization of the Games,” he added. (, PNA)