A cauldron costing nearly US$1 million that will hold the Southeast Asian Games flame has drawn anger in the Philippines, sparking comparisons to the excesses that epitomized the Marcos era.
Critics in the Philippines, which is hosting the Games in and around Manila from November 30, have said the P50 million (US$984,000) would have been better spent helping the nation's children and poor.
The 160 feet cauldron has been built at the main stadium in Clark, north of Manila, for the regional Games which start on November 30.
"Do you realize that at one million (pesos) per classroom, we can construct 50 classrooms? In other words, we did away with 50 classrooms in exchange for one 'kaldero'," said lawmaker Franklin Drilon.
An ally of President Rodrigo Duterte, lawmaker Joey Salceda, said that while "the cost looks reasonable, it comes across as Imeldific and signals grandiosity".
"Imeldific" is a term born of the worst excesses of the reign of dictator Ferdinand Marcos and his wife Imelda, when billions disappeared from state coffers.
As the anger over the cauldron has built, Duterte himself waded into the fray saying there was no "corruption" behind the high cost.
"It is a product of the mind. You cannot estimate how much money you lost because it is the rendition of the mind of the creator," the president told reporters.
SEA Games organizing committee chief Alan Peter Cayetano also went in to bat for the project.
"It's a work of art," he said. "We see the athletes, we see the burning flames that represent hope and the fighting spirit. We think it is just appropriate."*PNA
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