SEA Games: Philippines makes U-turn, confirms it will be host in 2019

MANILA (AFP) - The Philippines announced on Thursday that it would host the 2019 SEA Games after all, just a month after pulling out citing the escalating cost of war with Islamist militants.

Manila last month said it would not host the 2019 SEA Games to focus on rebuilding Marawi, a southern city which has been ravaged by deadly battles between security forces and Islamist militants for almost three months.

However, sports officials said on Thursday (Aug 17) that the Philippines would formally notify the SEA Games Federation on Friday of its commitment to host the 2019 edition after securing backing from President Rodrigo Duterte.

"That's absolutely true. I'm 200 per cent sure we are hosting the Games," Cynthia Carrion, a board member of the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC), told AFP.

Carrion, also the chef de mission of the Philippines delegation at the 2017 SEA Games, which begin in Malaysia at the weekend, said the government's initial decision "had nothing to do with Marawi" but refused to elaborate.

She said POC officials met Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano and other Duterte advisers on Wednesday to discuss funding and other matters for the 2019 SEA Games.

The Philippine Sports Commission, which oversees the country's amateur sports development programme, said in a separate statement on Thursday that Mr Cayetano was named chairman of the organising committee for the 2019 SEA Games.

The Philippines last hosted the biennial Games in 2005, when it topped the medal tally for the only time in the history of the Games with 113 golds. Before that, the country was host in 1981 and 1991.