SINGAPORE - The Asean Para Games (APG) will not be held on Jan 18-24 as scheduled, after the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) admitted that it does not have enough funds to stage the event next month.
PSC commissioner Arnold Augustin suggested that it could be held in March, after revealing that the delay in the release of the budget from the General Appropriations Act next year has put organisers in a fix.
In a letter obtained by Daily Tribune, the Filipino broadsheet quoted Agustin as writing to Philippine Paralympic Committee (PPC) president Michael Barredo: "We cannot help but to have fears in the staging of the 2020 Asean Para Games.
"As such, in pursuit of polished and seamless staging of the 2020 Asean Para Games, it is with heavy heart that we recommend the Games to be postponed and be held at a later date."
Initially, the PSC had committed 100 million pesos (S$2.67 million) for the staging of the Games, but Barredo said the budget could reach 350 million to 500 million pesos.
Barredo added in a statement: "While we have made every effort to prepare the Games in the past 11/2 years, matters well beyond our control are compelling us to reschedule the event."
Singapore Disability Sports Council president Kevin Wong expressed his disappointment at the news, and said the repercussions faced by Team Singapore include extra costs in terms of flight rescheduling.
The Republic's original 63-athlete team may also be reduced due to work and school commitments in March.
After receiving official notification of the postponement on Friday (Dec 20), he told The Straits Times: "Given there should have been proper planning in the long build-up to the APG, this postponement should not be happening.
"We are not the only country affected and this is very disruptive for every participating nation's preparations. There are also athletes who may have planned to try and qualify for the Paralympics during the original APG dates, and have to miss that window now."
In a statement, Singapore chef de mission Eric Tseng added: "For such a critical decision to postpone the Games, there must be some crucial factors that need to be addressed first to ensure the well-being and experience of all athletes at the Games.
"We hope they could be resolved quickly so all the Asean nations could gather together to partake in the Games in celebration of humanity and inclusiveness.
"In the meantime, we will work closely with our athletes and coaches to ensure they can re-adjust their training and conditioning to the new Games dates."
Wong suggested that the Asean Para Sports Federation could look into contracts with APG host countries in the future, as there is no avenues for recourse or compensation in the absence of such agreements at the moment.
"For now, we will work with sponsors in terms of our budget," he said.
The postponement also came as a surprise to national para-archer and world No. 1 Nur Syahidah Alim.
But she remains optimistic that Team Singapore will remain focused and deliver in March, and said: "I did not expect such change within short notice. However, I strongly believe that the coaches and relevant bodies will work together to relook the training plans and make the necessary adjustments.
"While this change does not deter me from delivering my best at the Games, I am also certain TeamSG athletes will do the same and remain positive."
Before the APG snafu, there was also a chaotic build-up to the SEA Games last month in the Philippines, with organisers coming under fire for a range of issues that included transport delays, accommodation issues and insufficient food for athletes.
The APG was first held in 2001 and is usually held biennially. Next year's meet will be the 10th edition and it features 16 sports - archery, athletics, badminton, boccia, chess, cycling, CP (cerebral palsy) football, goalball, judo, powerlifting, swimming, 10-pin bowling, table tennis, sitting volleyball, wheelchair basketball and para triathlon.
Obstacle course race will also be included as a demonstration sport, as around 1,500 Asean athletes get set to participate in 400 events that would be held at the New Clark City, Subic and some venues in Metro Manila.
At the 2017 APG, Singapore returned from Malaysia with 10 golds, 18 silvers and 24 bronzes.