No SEA Games for Manila in 2019

The 30th edition of the SEA Games due to take place in Manila in 2019 has been cancelled by the Philippines Government due to the ongoing war on terrorism in Southern Mindanao.

As the 29th SEA Games are ready to kick off in Kuala Lumpur next Saturday (August 19), they are uncertainties over the destination hosting the next SEA Games. The sport event, which takes place every two years and see athletes of the 10 ASEAN countries as well as Timor Leste competing. SEA Games is an important event for tourism as it brings some 4,000 athletes participating in 400 competitions showing some 40 different sport activities.

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Logo of the coming KL 2017 SEA Games which take place from August 19 to 30.

The 30th edition of the Games, due to take place in 2019, is marred with troubles since its early planning. Brunei was due to host the Games but finally withdrew its hosting rights in 2015, due to a lack of support from the State and the absence of proper sports facilities and accommodation. The former Aquino administration in the Philippines then stepped in to host the games in Manila.

At the end of July, the Philippines announced its decision to withdraw also its hosting rights to the 2019 Southeast Asian Games. The government explained that the money need to host the Games would now be needed to channel funds into rehabilitating conflict-torn Marawi in South Mindanao. The city is still the site of a war between ISIS-related Muslim factions and the Philippines National Army.

Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) chairman Butch Ramirez made the announcement during an official press conference. Ramirez stressed the “problem of terrorism and atrocities” in Marawi, Mindanao as the reason for the decision.

In a July 19, 2017 letter that is addressed to Philippine Olympic Committee, the PSC chairman said: “The government accepted the chairmanship of the ASEAN 2017 to be worlds partner of change with great enthusiasm and eagerness. It is in the manner it showed interest in hosting the 2019 30th SEA Games.

“However, due to the current situation in Mindanao and the problem in terrorism and atrocities, we regret to inform you that we will no longer push through with the hosting of the biennial event. It has been resolved that the government resources be focused in the rehabilitation and rebuilding of Mindanao specifically Marawi.

The PSC remains committed to supporting national athletes in the upcoming SEA Games, set for August in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on through the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo Japan.

“Further, when all is clear and peace and order had improve after 2020 Olympics and in the future, we are positive and willing to host the SEA Games or any other international sporting events.”

Behind the decision are certainly concerns among Filipino officials about the safety of participants and viewers during such a big event in the capital.

The Philippines hosted the SEA Games for the last time in 2005 in Manila, Bacolod and Cebu, spending some 500 million Peso (US$11 million) at that time. Thailand has announced its willingness to take over the 2019 SEA Games while Hanoi is already preparing to host the SEA Games in 2021…