But the Department of Education (DepEd) and the host city were quick to downplay the absence of the President and the highest sports official of the land, saying it would not do any harm to the successful turnout in the making of the weeklong multi-sport events.
Education Secretary Jesli Lapus, representing Ms Arroyo who could not attend due to previous commitments, will be the keynote speaker in Sunday's elaborate rites.
Mayor Edward Hagedorn will welcome some 15,000 athletes, coaches and officials from the country’s 17 regions.
Local officials led by Palawan Gov. Joel Reyes will grace the opening rites. Also attending are Palawan’s congressmen, Rep. Antonio Alvarez (1st Dist.) and Abraham Kahlil Mitra (2nd Dist.).
DepEd officials, including the regional directors, are expected to attend in full show of strength since the agency has vowed for the successful staging of this year’s event.
A fireworks display will culminate the inaugural affair which will be ushered in by a parade of delegates that will start at the Palawan State University.
The President gave P50 million “out of her special fund” to help augment the funds of the games, said former city councilor and now city information officer Alroben Goh.
Ramirez is not attending the inaugural rites for the first time due to health reasons but instructed Commissioner Eric Loretizo to inform the host city that the national sports agency is willing to help technically, among others, to run the games.
The weeklong national competition for elementary and high school students will feature competitions in athletics, badminton, baseball, basketball, chess, football, gymnastics, sepak takraw, softball, swimming, table tennis, taekwondo tennis, volleyball, archery, boxing, and arnis.
The medal-rich athletics will be held at the sprawling 16-hectare RVMJ complex, badminton at the nearby Power Zone Training and Recreation Center, baseball at the 570th Composite Tactical Wing grounds, basketball at the Paleco Covered Court, chess at the Palawan State University, football at the PSU grounds, gymnastics at the Puerto Princesa Coliseum, sepak-takraw at the People’s Amphitheater, softball at the Palawan National School ground, swimming at the RVMJ Aquatic Center, volleyball at the Baptist Covered Court and lawn tennis at the Air Force court. (Rico Biliran / MindaNews)