Cayetano defends ₱50-M SEA Games cauldron: 'It's a work of art'

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The ₱50-million cauldron built for the Southeast Asian Games is a 'work of art' and monument for athletes, House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano says as the giant torch drew flak for its price.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 19) — House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano defended the ₱50-million cauldron built in New Clark City that will serve as the giant torch for the Southeast Asian Games, calling it a "work of art" despite drawing flak for its price.

Cayetano broke practice and personally addressed the Senate on Tuesday as chairman of the Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee (PHISGOC). The private group is on top of preparations for the country's hosting of the SEA Games this year.

On Monday, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon called out the construction of the 50-meter cauldron right beside the newly-built New Clark City Athletics Stadium, questioning if the expense was "appropriate."

The 3-meter wide cauldron will hold the SEA games flame for the duration of the sports event. The country spent ₱4.4 million for its design, ₱13.4 million for the foundation, and ₱32 million for its construction.

READ: Senate recalls BCDA budget over questions on SEA Games facilities

Cayetano refuted claims that the sports facilities were "overpriced and excessive," saying the country's own structure is cheaper than the one built by Singapore four years ago at ₱63 million. He added that the one in Singapore was not built by a national artist, versus the local one designed by the late Francisco “Bobby” Mañosa, a National Artist for Architecture. To him, it's priceless.

"The cauldron is not one of the symbols — it's the symbol of the games, whether it's Olympic games or SEA Games," Cayetano said. "It's a work of art. While some people see it as a cauldron, we see a monument. We see the athletes, we see the burning flames that represent hope and the fighting spirit. We think it is just appropriate."

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He added that hosting the regional sporting meet should be seen as "source of national pride,' with this year's SEA Games to feature the most number of events.

Cayetano said the ₱50-million budget includes a ₱5-million provision for fuel, which would keep the gigantic torch blazing round-the-clock for 11 days.

Cayetano also likened the big torch to a huge globe structure fronting a huge mall complex in Pasay City, saying it "enhances the development" and "adds value" to the private property. Drilon maintained that the cauldron remains a "luxury expense."

Hosting the regional sporting meet should be seen as "source of national pride," the lawmaker said, with this year's SEA Games to feature the most number of events.

Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) Chairman Butch Ramirez said there will be 56 sports involving 530 competitions to be held various venues in the country from November 30 to December 11, 2019. PHISGOC has spent ₱700 million out of a ₱1.5-billion fund from the PSC, Cayetano said.

READ: PHISGOC hand in SEA Games questioned

To thank senators for approving the PSC budget for this year, Cayetano said he will be bringing tickets and official jackets for the lawmakers. He also went to defend why the private group PHISGOC has been tasked to run the SEA Games, saying it's been the practice even by other host countries to let a foundation run the show.

New facilities questioned

Drilon also asked if the country really needed to spend roughly ₱9.5 billion in building the New Clark City Sports Complex, which would host events for two sports: swimming and track and field.

Without the new facilities in Clark, Ramirez said the other option would be the 85-year-old Rizal Memorial Stadium, which has been in dire need of rehabilitation. The sports complex in Manila is getting an upgrade to host other sporting events just two weeks before the opening day of the SEA Games.

It would have taken roughly ₱1.2 billion to upgrade the Rizal stadium, but Ramirez said that the decades-old facility would likely have a hard time complying with international standards. Cayetano added that building the complex could be cheaper than sending athletes to train abroad.

READ: Senate recalls BCDA budget over questions on SEA Games facilities

Senator Pia Cayetano, a former athlete, defended the construction of new facilities in Clark. She said that meeting the stringent international standards for a track and field oval would entail demolishing other structures within the Rizal stadium to make way for warm-up tracks for racers. Clark is rated a "class 1" facility, she added.

Her brother Alan added that the New Clark City and its towering torch would have further use as the Philippines will also host the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup, a staple training center for athletes, and even as a concert venue down the road. Drilon, however, said the hosting of the events could have been carried out "at much lesser expense."