By Genalyn Kabiling
Organizers of the 30th Southeast Asian Games (SEAG) should consider giving tickets to students for free or at least offer a 50 percent discount, a Palace official suggested Thursday.
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo made the proposal to make the games free to students to encourage more people to watch the games and cheer on the Filipino athletes.
“Baka ‘yung mga estudyante huwag na lang pabayarin siguro pero ‘yung may sweldo naman magbayad [Maybe the students should not be charged for the games but those with salaries should pay for the tickets],” he said during a press conference in Malacañang.
“Personally, they should allow students na libre or kung hindi 50 percent discount. Happy compromise [Personally, they should allow students to watch the games for free or give them 50 percent discount. Happy compromise],” he added.
Asked if he will push for the free tickets for students, Panelo said: “Suggestion ko lang ‘yun [That’s only my suggestion].”
Former Philippine Olympic Committee chair Monico Puentevella recently appealed to President Duterte to let the public watch the SEA Games for free to attract more crowd. Puentevella, president of the Samahang Weightlifting ng Pilipinas, said giving free tickets would maximize the home-court advantage.
The former lawmaker likewise called for the suspension of classes in Metro Manila and areas in Clark and Subic where the games are going to be held to entice students to support the country’s athletes.
Panelo assured that the Palace would study the proposal to provide free tickets to all Filipinos as well as suspend classes near the venues of the SEAG.
He initially wondered why the organizers were charging for game tickets but later recognized that they probably needed the funds for the maintenance of the sports facilities. He noted that even the organizers of Olympics Games sold tickets to the public.
But for now, he said the government cannot just order the organizers about giving free SEAG tickets. “You just don’t order. You have to know the reasons for whatever proposal anybody or any institution is giving. Pag-aralan muna natin [Let’s study it first],” he said.
He also found nothing wrong with charging the public to watch the sports competition.
“Bakit naman masama na magbayad ka kung gusto mo manood? Unang-una kailangan din nila ng pera for maintenance [Why is it wrong to pay if you want to watch the games? First, they need the money for maintenance],” he said.
“Kailangan nga nila ng pera kaya sila nagpapabayad [they need the money so they’re asking for payment] but we will study the proposal,” he added.
Despite calls for free tickets to the games, Panelo admitted having doubts about the efficacy of home-court advantage in a sports tournament.
“Naniniwala ba kayo sa home-court advantage? Kung totoo ‘yun, lahat ng games panalo tayo dahil nasa home-court tayo lahat [Do you believe in home-court advantage? If that’s true, we would win all games because we have the home-court advantage],” he said.
On the recent defeat of Philippine Azkals to Myanmar in the football competition, he said many people would have been disappointed if free tickets were distributed.
“Natalo tayo? Mabuti pala may bayad kasi kung walang bayad, maraming nanood, maraming na-disappoint [We lost? It’s a good thing there’s ticket payment. If it was for free and many people watched, many would have been disappointed],” he said.