Opinion: Bad economics is driving CAR LGUs away as CARAA hosts

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What’s going on with Cordillera sports? Why are the Local Government Units (LGUs) of the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) avoiding to host the Cordillera Administrative Region Athletic Association (CARAA) meet?

At a time when athletes with Cordilleran connection proved that they can compete with the best of Southeast Asia and can become the best amongst them, the sad news of dislike in hosting probably the biggest sporting event in the region broke out.

Apayao, said to be gunning for a second straight tour of duty after hosting the 2019 edition, backed out, allegedly because of a need to realign the intended budget for sports to other projects.

Baguio, by the looks of it, reluctantly agreed to take over. This is because the city made it clear, they are removing themselves for a repeat duty in 2021 and 2022.

These incidents came after The Department of Education (DepEd) opened bidding for hosting rights for 2020-2022 earlier this year.

Again, from the looks of it, no local government even bothered to submit a bid.

This leaves a bitter taste for the Cordilleran sports fanatic during supposed blissful times due to the success attained by local athletes in the SEA Games.

Why the sudden display of disinterest? Aren’t the local LGUs supposed to be somewhat inspired by the SEA Games results instead?

The costs of hosting the CARAA

According to DepEd-CAR, CARAA hosts are expected to ensure well prepared sports facilities and billeting schools for athletes and coaches.

The sports facilities should include a rubberized track oval that is accessible and free to the public. DepEd is also hoping the host’ sports facilities be at par with international standards for competitions and trainings.

The host should also have basic services such as medical and dental, communications, water and electric power supply and the peace and order situation in the locality must be excellent and conducive to the holding of the regional activity.

It was also indicated that the capability and willingness of an LGU to shoulder expenses necessary for the hosting of the CARAA meet, including construction and renovation of sports facilities, billeting and other infrastructure requirements, was part of the criteria for interested bidders for hosting the event.

Lastly, uncompromising unity of all socio-economic political groups, government, and non-government entities in ensuring the successful staging of the regional sports event has been manifested from the host.

Why Baguio is up in arms

Hosting this year’s CARAA surprised the City of Baguio. According to Baguio Mayor Benjamin Magalong, DepEd plans and executes the CARAA without consulting the City as financiers of the event. He narrated the fact that the cost of hosting was not originally included in their 2020 budget.

He also complained that the City would end up shouldering most of CARAA’s finances when DepEd is the apt organizer and implementer of the event.

Baguio is also questioning the supposed lack of liquidation report and the inability to receive the turnover an inventory of mattresses, sleeping bags, and other equipment, which DepEd purchased for the participating athletes during their 2017 hosting.

The City Accountant and Members of the City Council also found some issues is DepEd’s original CARAA financial plan. They particularly raised questions for a P300,000 allocation for 300 souvenir programs and the addition of a P1-million contingency fund.

Baguio Councilor Betty Lourdes Tabanda, in particular, have been quoted by some reports to have said the unused fund “could become savings for DepEd should it not be spent at the expense of the host government.”

Bad economics is discouraging the most appropriate host

It is easy to see why Baguio is shying away from the hosting duties and why no other province and city wishes to perform this part of the CARAA.

Which LGU is willing to spend P8.3 Million, down from the initial proposed amount of P15 million, and not get enough return for their constituents?

The Baguio City Schools Superintendent said as quoted in some reports that “many athletes request for a Baguio venue because they prefer playing in this city”.

If they really just prefer to play in Baguio, that is a shallow reason for the City to spend over P8 Million to host it.

But while it was not expressly stated, this writer would like to think that what was intended to be said was they like to play in the city due to its superior facilities and compliance to the requirements of DepEd from hosts.

While the other LGUS may not admit it, Baguio City is in the best position to provide participants with better facilities compared with other places in CAR. The athletic bowl has already been upgraded a few years ago. The swimming pool has been refurbished. And whenever it needs help in venue issues, nearby La Trinidad, Benguet is just a stone’s throw away for the needed assistance.

Try to imagine the case a runner from other provinces, who would normally train on dirt, to win his/her first medal on the rubberized track of the Athletic Bowl. Or the swimmer who learned the trade in some rivers or resort pools to win a medal by swimming at the city’s pool.

No other LGU can provide young athletes experiences such as these than Baguio City.

This is why this writer also wishes the city to reconsider its stand on removing itself from the hosting duties when no province or city is willing to host the event. Baguio should take on the cudgels in behalf of the Cordilleran athlete whenever no other CAR LGU wants the job.

This writer, however, sees more are to be required from DepEd and the other competing provinces and city if Baguio is to become the default host when there are no takers.

More on these demanded things next week.