By Floreño G. Solmirano
LEGAZPI CITY — Not only a few skeptics cast a shadow of doubt that the Provincial Government of Albay (PGA) would be able to finish the construction of the facilities for the Palarong Pambansa 2016 on time.
With about only five months to prepare the games’ venues and facilities, the PGA, through the Provincial Engineering Office, and the contractor, the Verzontal Builders Inc., worked round the clock and left no stone unturned to beat the tight deadline.
The works could have started earlier in August 2015 yet but certain kinks had to be ironed out with the Bicol University administration to be able to come out with a memorandum of agreement that would be beneficial to both parties – the BU and the PGA.
There was a moment in time that the negotiation reached a deadlock and was threatened to bog down because of one BU Board of Regents member.
It was at this point that the technical working committee (TWC) entertained the idea of considering the transfer of the games venue to another place — one of them is at Villahermosa, Daraga, Albay, an expansive space where a Philippine Army’s infantry brigade is based.
The original main venue was an excellent site in Travesia in the town of Guinobatan.
Dr. Ed Laguerta, Bicol resident volcanologist, cautioned that it is along the path of lahar flows from the Mayon Volcano.
The TWC had no recourse but to heed the wisdom of Laguerta’s advice – and so the Bicol University main campus compound, with its wide sports ground.
For the best interest of and the glory of Albay, in particular, and the Bicol Region, in general, both the PGA and the BU administration saw the light of agreement and decided to proceed.
The engineering works for the sports festival started in October 2015.
Provincial engineer Dante Baclao and the Verzontal Builders Inc. buckled down to work.
They needed, among others, to build a strong grandstand that could accommodate some 2,500 people and not yield to strong typhoons.
“We contracted a Vietnamese company to construct the pre-fabricated metal posts and beams,” Baclao said in a 7:00 p.m. interview at the back of the huge green-colored grandstand that is having finishing touches on Monday.
He said it was the first time that the Vietnamese manufacturer made this kind of metal material for posts, resembling the head and long neck of a swan.
“It can withstand the thrust of a strong typhoon,” the provincial engineer claimed.
In front of the spacious grandstand lies the red oval field that looks like a giant carpet and guarded by huge lights atop giants posts.
Some 200 meters from the grandstand lies an Olympic-size swimming pool being cleaned by four workers.
“Anytime from now, we will be filling it water from various sources through the help of the Bureau of Fire Protection,” Baclao said.
Other venues for other games are already in place, he said.
The Verzontal Builders Inc. has worked round-the-clock to finish the facilities on time despite limited schedule.
It has also constructed the facilities requested by some sports coordinators for their billeting centers which were agreed upon in the second and final national technical conference in February, Baclao said.
The company will add 30-40 water containers in every billeting center to ensure enough supply of water, especially that dry season has crept in the province.
This is aside from the water rationing that will be done by the Bureau of Fire Protection, the engineer said.
Meanwhile, most of the athletes from the 18 regions of the country are now in Albay and have started their concentration training for familiarization with the various playing venues for the 2016 Palarong Pambansa on April 10-16.
Department of Education (DepEd) Bicol spokesperson Roy Banas said first to arrive were delegates from Region 9 (Zamboanga Peninsula), numbering 700, who came during the Holy Week.
Participants from Region 8 (Eastern Visayas) followed on Tuesday last week.
Banas said the DepEd is expecting thousands of athletes, teachers and coaches to be coming this first week of April.
Delegates from the Cordillera Administrative Region, Regions 10, 11 and Negros Island Region as well as contingents from Region 3 and Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao have reportedly arrived already.
Those from Regions 2, 6, 7 and 4A are expected to arrive Tuesday.
Expected to be in Albay on Wednesday are those from the National Capital Region, which has the biggest delegation.
All in all, Banas said, delegates who will gather in Albay are expected to reach 18,000 – composed of student-athletes, coaches and chaperons from 18 regions.
Banas said the playing venues are now ready.
The BU compound is now being used for the training of the athletes while the playing venues rented by the provincial government like malls and hotels will be available on Friday.
The events to be played are archery, arnis, athletics, badminton, baseball, basketball, boxing, chess, football, gymnastics, sepak takraw, softball, swimming, table tennis, taekwondo, tennis and volleyball.
Demonstration sports are billiards, futsal, wrestling and wushu.
Meanwhile, the Bicol athletes have just finished Phase 1 of their concentration training in Barangay Travesia, Guinobatan while the second phase of training started on Monday up to Saturday in Albay Sports Complex.
There are 640 Bicol players, of which 224 are in the elementary and 288 are in secondary, while 47 are joining the demonstration sports, 50 in special games while more than 30 are delegation officials.
Banas said the expenses of DepEd-Bicol for this year’s Palaro are lower because it will be held in Albay.
From PHP10.5 million expenses incurred by DepEd-Bicol in the 2015 Palarong Pambansa in Davao del Norte, the costs now reach only PHP8.5 million.
The Bicol athletes are now 95-percent ready, including the preparation for training, procurement, uniform, food, sports equipment, incentives and transportation costs.
The DepEd-Bicol hopes to be in the fifth place in the overall standing, from the previous 10th place.
Last year, Bicol delegates brought home nine gold, 14 silver and 19 bronze medals from Tagum City, the venue of the Palarong Pambansa 2015.
All virtually set, let the games begin! (PNA)