By Chino Leyco and Hannah Torregoza
Athletes will be transported by “self-driving” vehicles during the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games within the New Clark City, a sprawling
9,500-hectare development in Tarlac used as the main hub for the regional multi-sport event.
The Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) unveiled Thursday its first self-driving shuttle bus that can accommodate up to 14 passengers that will roam New Clark City during the 12-day SEA Games event.
BCDA said the US-made autonomous car will be used at no cost to government to provide transportation services for the athletes to and from the Athletes’ Village, the Athletics Stadium and the Aquatics Center.
According to COAST Autonomous, maker of the “self-driving” vehicle, it will use high-definition, 3D mapping machines for the shuttles’ route that can run up to 25 miles per hour.
BCDA said three electric Coast P-1 shuttles will be used during the SEA Games.
“The SEA Games is the perfect event and New Clark City, the ideal location to showcase the future of urban transportation,” David Hickey, COAST Autonomous chairman and chief executive said in a previous statement.
Hickey said the electric and self-driving shuttles are “the natural successors to the streetcar” and can be the backbone of a new, clean and more efficient streetcar system.
New Clark City will serve as the main sports hub for SEA Games.
The government-funded development includes the 20,000-seater Athletics Stadium, the 2,000-seater Aquatics Center, and an Athletes’ Village that will provide housing and training facilities for the athletes, as well as SEA Games officials and volunteers.
Central to these facilities is the 1.4-kilometer River Park Corridor that will have recreational spots for community activities.
Of the 543 sports events to be hosted in the SEA Games, more than 200 events will be held in Clark.
Meanwhile, Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said government funds for the New Clark City sports venues were “well-spent” as he lauded the BCDA for constructing the facilities “on time and within budget.”
“My job is to raise money for the government. When I do that, I also want to see that the money is well-spent and not wasted,” Dominguez said.
“This project, I think, is well-spent, not only for the athletes but also for the pride of our country, and that we now have for the first time in 80 years a world-class sports facility,” said Dominguez, citing the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex, built in 1934.
“We want to ensure that we are also world-class when it comes to our athletes because our athletes are really world-class and they really deserve a facility like this,” he added.
BCDA, together with infrastructure developer MTD Clark, Inc., built the new sports facilities as part of New Clark City Phase 1A in just 18 months since the project broke ground in January 2018.
Meanwhile, Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara on Friday called for a ceasefire on the raging debates over the country’s hosting of the 30th SEAG as any negative news could distract athletes participating in the event.
Angara said that as the host country of the regional games, the entire nation must be united and show its ASEAN neighbors what the world-famous Filipino hospitality is all about.
The senator said the negative talk should cease especially once the athletes start arriving for the opening of the event on November 30.
“Hosting ng Games yan. Dapat naka-concentrate tayo dito. Kasi yung mga atleta natin, kapag maraming issue, baka ma-distract e. Dapat naka-focus lang sa mga competition nila, (We’re hosting the Games. We need to concentrate here. Because the athletes, when there are issues, they might be distracted. They need to focus on their competition),”
Angara, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said the necessary audit into the expenses made for the Games, including the construction of the facilities, will be done as part of the regular processes of the government.
“Dadaan naman talaga sa auditing ang lahat ng yan. Lahat ng gastusin ng gobyerno ay dadaan talaga sa cost audit (Everything will be audited. All the expenses of the government will pass through a cost audit),” he pointed out.
“Titignan ito ng Commission on Audit (COA). Yun talaga ang trabaho ng ahensya—kung nagastos ba ng tama ng ahensya yung pera dyan, (The COA will look into this. That is their job–to see to it if the government agencies used the money properly),” Angara explained.
Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon had earlier vowed to pursue a Senate probe into the expenses incurred by the government for hosting the SEA Games after noting that the cost of the cauldron alone was worth a whopping P50-million.
Drilon had raised concerns over the fact the construction of a new state-of-the-art sports stadium at the New Clark City would be financed by borrowing from a Malaysian bank and payable in five years time.
“We are incurring a loan here. Inutang natin ito from a Malaysian bank payable in five years time at P2.2-billion per year. So it’s a total of P11-billion,” Drilon said.
But Drilon said he will pursue a probe after the SEA Games. “We don’t want to conduct the investigation now. We will look at every angle.
We will look at whether or not there is propriety, whether there is luxury, whether there is graft and corruption,” said Drilon.
Angara welcomed Drilon’s pronouncement but noted that officials at the Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA) have already laid out a plan to ensure the facility won’t turn into a ‘white elephant.’
Based on information provided by the BCDA, he said the sports facilities constructed for the SEA Games would eventually make money for the government, which was estimated at a minimum of P100 million annually.
Angara said BCDA president Vince Dizon has informed him that the maintenance of the sports facilities would cost an estimated P188-million a year and that this would be done by the private sector.
The BCDA has also stated that as early as now, three local real estate developers have expressed interest in undertaking the maintenance of the facilities.
“Ganun ang plano nilang gawin para mabawasan yung maintenance cost ng gobyerno kasi may kalakihan din yung gastos sa pag-maintain nito, (That is one of their plans to lessen the maintenance cost of the government because maintaining it also entails huge expense),” Angara said.
The SEA Games will run from November 30 to December 11. The sporting events will be held at different venues including the New Clark City in Pampanga, the Subic Bay Freeport, and Metro Manila.
The opening of the SEA Games will be held at the Philippine Arena in Bulacan.