By Mario Casayuran
Neophyte Senator Christopher Lawrence ‘’Bong’’ Go said on Monday he fully supports the development of the New Clark City sports hub, calling it “a good investment” which would benefit Filipino athletes, the country’s sports program, as well as the economy.
“I fully support the development of New Clark City, especially the sports hub which would greatly benefit our athletes. It is a good investment, as this facility will be very useful for us well beyond the time that we will be using it during the 2019 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games,” Go said in yesterday’s plenary session on the budget for the SEA Games funded by the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) that begins next week.
The BCDA, however, still needs to demonstrate how it will guarantee the return of investment for the sports facilities beyond their hosting of the SEA Games, Go said when interpellated by Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon.
“Pero, tama rin po ang mga punto ni Senator Drilon at kailangan itong tanungin ngayon: Paano masisiguro na ang in-invest dito para sa SEA Games hosting ay hindi masasayang sa mga susunod na taon?” Go asked. (Senator Drilon is right in asking: How do we ensure that this investment will not go to waste in the coming years?’).
BCDA’s expenditure for the SEA Games sports facilities is P9 billion.
Go also clarified his move to suggest the recall of the BCDA 2020 budget which has already been previously approved last week.
“I understand that (as) one—if not the most—important legislative measure that goes through this chamber is the budget and it is important for us to make sure that not a single centavo is wasted,” Go said.
“Ito ay isa sa rason kung bakit ako mismo ang nagrekomenda na i-recall ang approval ng budget ng BCDA para mabigyan ng tamang venue at attention ang kapwa ko mambabatas na usisain ito, out of transparency rin sa ating kapwa Pilipinong nanonood ngayon.” (This is one reason why I myself is recommending the recall of the BCDA budget so that it be given attention for the sake of transparency.)
“But apart from these positive effects, let us still ask the hard questions and explain to the public why this government is spending this much and what kind of benefits will the people receive beyond this year’s events,” he said.
During the floor debate, Go asked for other sources of income BCDA has aside from the subsidy it is currently receiving from the (proposed 2020) General Appropriations Act (GAA or national budget).
Senator Juan Edgardo ‘’Sonny’’ M. Angara, sponsor of the BCDA budget, responded by saying that the government-owned and controlled corporation (GOCC) has its other assets and revenues from its operations.
Angara added that the facilities are being packaged along with adjoining properties to enhance real estate development within the area.
As for Go’s question regarding the possibility of the sporting facilities becoming “white elephants” after the Games, Angara said that an Asian Development Bank (ADB) study, which lays out the plan for transition of the facilities, has already been conducted.
He added that the Filipino community and athletes will also be able to utilize said facilities.
Citing the remoteness of the facilities as it is north of the former Clark Air Force Base in Angeles city, Pampanga, Go then asked what transportation programs are being prepared to make them more accessible to the public.
Angara said on behalf of BCDA that the Manila-Clark Railway, expected to be operational in 2022, and the Subic-Clark Railway in 2024 will improve access to the facilities.
Angara also said that a bus rapid transit is also being readied.
The BCDA budget for year 2020 was later approved by the Senate after the period of interpellations in the plenary on the same day.