Panelo: SEA Games organizers lacked ‘creativity’ in fixing logistics issues

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The Philippines' own women's football team was not spared from accommodation issues.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 25) — Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo believes the lack of "creativity" from the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games organizers led to the logistics problems experienced by local and foreign athletes.

The 2019 SEA Games fiasco was the talk of the town on Sunday after several international football teams aired concerns over logistics problems upon arriving in the Philippines for their respective competitions. The teams from Myanmar, Timor-Leste, and Cambodia encountered trouble with their transportation and accommodations. 

Related: PHISGOC apologizes as 2019 SEA Games hit with early complaints from competing football teams

Panelo said it could have all been avoided if the Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee (PHISGOC) thought out of the box on how to solve the problem.

"Creativity lang 'yon. Doon sila siguro nagkulang pero baka nataranta lang," he said in a media briefing from South Korea on Sunday. 

[Translation: It could've been fixed if they were creative. That's what they lacked, but maybe they panicked.]

A few days before the start of the football matches on Monday, some members of the Timor-Leste football team were brought to a different hotel a few minutes away from where they had room reservations. Cambodian team coach Félix Dalmás said the team waited "eight to nine hours" for their hotel accommodations. Photos on social media showed the Cambodian football team sleeping on chairs and carpeted floors after they arrived at Century Park Hotel earlier than expected.

The Philippines' own women's football team was also not spared.

This snafu comes almost two weeks after PHISGOC chair and House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano assured they were ready for the games.

“Handang handang handa na tayo,” Cayetano told CNN Philippines on November 11.

[Translation: We are more than ready.]

Panelo offered "easy" steps PHISGOC could've done, such as billeting them in a different hotel while their rooms are being prepared.

Panelo said the delays and miscommunications are "never intentional." He also downplayed the inconvenience experienced by the foreign athletes.

"In the photos I saw, nakaupo at nakahiga naman sila. Nagre-rest sila. Mayroon pa ring roof, comfortable seats, air-conditioned... It would be different kung nagkaroon ng risk sa buhay nila o kalusugan, pero yung a few hours delay checking in o transporting, it happens to every passenger over the world," he said.

[Translation: In the photos I saw, they were lying down, resting. There was still a roof over their heads. They were on comfortable seats in an air-conditioned room... It would be a different story if their lives or health were at risk. Delays in check in or transportation happens to every passenger.]

Despite this, he offered an apology to the representatives.

"We commit to do better next time. We're not offering an excuse," he said.

The football matches are set to begin on Monday ahead of the SEA Games’ opening ceremony on November 30. The 12-day event will formally close on December 11.