Philippine sect opens 'world's largest indoor arena'

Members of Iglesia ni Cristo (Church of Christ) are seen in front of the newly built dome in Bocaue, Bulacan, north of Manila, on July 20, 2014.  -- PHOTO: AFP 
Members of Iglesia ni Cristo (Church of Christ) are seen in front of the newly built dome in Bocaue, Bulacan, north of Manila, on July 20, 2014.  -- PHOTO: AFP 
Members of Iglesia ni Cristo (Church of Christ) are seen inside the newly built dome in Bocaue, Bulacan, north of Manila, on July 20, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP 
Members of Iglesia ni Cristo (Church of Christ) are seen inside the newly built dome in Bocaue, Bulacan, north of Manila, on July 20, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP 
Members of Iglesia ni Cristo (Church of Christ) are seen inside the newly built dome in Bocaue, Bulacan, north of Manila, on July 20, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP 
Members of Iglesia ni Cristo (Church of Christ) are seen inside the newly built dome in Bocaue, Bulacan, north of Manila, on July 20, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP 
Philippine President Benigno Aquino presides over the opening of the Philippine Arena, the world's largest indoor stadium erected by politically-influential religious sect Iglesia ni Cristo (Church of Christ) in Bulacan, north of Manila, on July 21,
Philippine President Benigno Aquino presides over the opening of the Philippine Arena, the world's largest indoor stadium erected by politically-influential religious sect Iglesia ni Cristo (Church of Christ) in Bulacan, north of Manila, on July 21, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
Philippine President Benigno Aquino presides over the opening of the Philippine Arena, the world's largest indoor stadium erected by politically-influential religious sect Iglesia ni Cristo (Church of Christ) in Bulacan, north of Manila, on July 21,
Philippine President Benigno Aquino presides over the opening of the Philippine Arena, the world's largest indoor stadium erected by politically-influential religious sect Iglesia ni Cristo (Church of Christ) in Bulacan, north of Manila, on July 21, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP 
The general view of world's largest indoor stadium erected by a politically-influential religious sect Iglesia ni Cristo (Church of Christ) in Bocaue town, Bulacan province, north of Manila, on July 21, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP 
The general view of world's largest indoor stadium erected by a politically-influential religious sect Iglesia ni Cristo (Church of Christ) in Bocaue town, Bulacan province, north of Manila, on July 21, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP 

MANILA (AFP) - Philippine President Benigno Aquino presided over the opening on Monday of what is billed as the world's largest indoor stadium, erected by a politically-influential religious sect.

The US$175-million (S$218.8 million) Philippine Arena, which can seat 55,000 people, was hailed as a showcase that will serve as a major venue for concerts and sports events as well as gatherings for its owners, the Iglesia ni Cristo (Church of Christ) sect.

"You have proved that the Filipino can reach great heights, that we can have achievements as lofty as any in the world," Aquino said in a speech to Iglesia members.

He hailed the 15-storey structure as "the largest domed arena in the whole world", saying its capacity was "even double that of the Staples Center in Los Angeles", a major sporting and entertainment venue.

Ground-breaking was in July 2011 for the stadium, which has a floor area of about 99,000 sq m and a height of 62m, and the facility was formally completed this month.

Located in Bocaue town, just outside the capital, the arena's construction is just one of many events marking the centennial of the Iglesia ni Cristo on July 27.

The Christian sect also said the stadium will have a capacity about double that of other popular indoor arenas like New York's Madison Square Garden.

However the Singapore National Stadium, completed in June, also seats 55,000 people and has been hailed in the press as the world's largest domed structure.

The builders have said the arena will be resistant to earthquakes which are a frequent threat to the country which sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire.

The Iglesia ni Cristo sect wields considerable political influence in the Philippines as its members, believed to number about three million people, vote as a bloc for whoever their leaders endorse.