SENATOR and Chair of the Senate Committee on Sports Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go urged the Philippine Sports Commission, Philippine Olympic Committee and other concerned agencies to craft guidelines to help national athletes bound for Olympic qualifying tournaments abroad.
In order for them to qualify and prepare for Tokyo Summer Olympics next year, Go said that there must be a plan in place so that national athletes and their coaches can be given priority in training during and after the period of general community quarantine, but in a manner that can still be compliant with health protocols.
“Habang patuloy na nilalabanan nating lahat ang pandemyang ito at hinahanda na rin natin ang bansa para sa ‘New Normal’ oras na malampasan natin ang krisis, kailangan ding mapaghandaan ng mga atleta natin ang kanilang mga laban sa paraan na ligtas at makakabuti sa kanilang pag-eensayo,” Go said.
“Balansehin lang po natin, huwag natin biglain, pero huwag rin natin sila pabayaan. Kabuhayan po nila ang pinag-uusapan dito. Karamihan ng ating mga atleta ay nabubuhay gamit ang kanilang talento sa larangan ng sports,” Go explained further.
Go confirmed that his office has already relayed this concern to PSC Chair William Ramirez and POC President and Cavite Representative Abraham Tolentino who both agreed to immediately act on the matter.
“Marami po sa ating mga atleta ay tatlong buwan nang hindi nakakapag-ensayo ng maayos. Planuhin dapat ng PSC at POC kung paano sila makakapaghanda sa kompetisyon sa paraang hindi rin sila mailalagay sa alanganin dahil sa kumakalat na sakit,” he urged.
Both entities committed to sit down and work on the necessary guidelines soon to allow the national athletes, especially those who are slated to participate in qualifying tournaments for the Tokyo Games, in addition to those who already qualified, to resume their training and use available sports facilities required of their respective sporting events.
Go emphasized that said guidelines must be implemented in close coordination with the Inter-Agency Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases to ensure that the national pool will not be unnecessarily put to harm considering that the country is still reeling from the global pandemic.
“We must take extra precaution and consider necessary safety guidelines and health protocols since we are still in the middle of a national health emergency caused by COVID-19,” Go, who is also the chair of the Senate Committee on Health, further reiterated.
“Marami namang mga pasilidad na pwedeng gamitin for training basta monitored and supervised ito ng PSC at POC. They can ensure that health protocols are followed, proper sanitation is maintained, and COVID-19 testings are made available when necessary,” Go suggested.
Late last year, the Philippines hosted the 30th Southeast Asia Games. The Philippines emerged as the over-all champion after capturing a total of 149 gold medals, ahead of traditional sports powerhouses Vietnam and Thailand.
The last time the country hauled the biggest number of gold medals was in 2005 when it hosted the 23rd biennial regional games.
“Over-all champion tayo noong nakaraang 30th Southeast Asian Games and we hope that our success in the field of sports can continue in the upcoming Summer Olympics as well as other international competitions despite the current crisis we are facing,” the Senator explained.
Go also added that once the 31st SEA Games in Hanoi, Vietnam is already organized, subsequent preparations of the Philippine team must also be considered in accordance with health protocols necessary when that time comes.
Meanwhile, Go appealed to the PSC to continue to promote and protect the welfare of athletes, especially the physical and mental condition of the national teams amid the COVID-19 crisis in the country.
“Ang ating mga atleta ay nagdadala ng karangalan sa ating bansa sa pamamagitan ng kanilang husay at talento. Ngayon, ipakita natin ang taos pusong suporta sa kanila, hindi lang sa mga laro, kundi sa oras ng pangangailangan,” he reiterated.
The PSC also ensured that qualified athletes and coaches will still get to receive allowances despite the “No training, no allowance” policy previously implemented. Although the amounts will be cut by half starting July, the PSC committed that allowances due to athletes can be retroacted to cover the deficit during the period when allowances were slashed once funds are made available considering their current financial situation.
Allowances provided by PSC for qualified athletes are taken from the National Sports Development Fund sourced from a percentage of the income of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation as provided by law. Since PAGCOR’s operations have also been adversely affected by the pandemic, its remittances to PSC for sports development substantially declined temporarily as well.
Aside from financial support, Go also urged the government to provide other forms of assistance to help national athletes and coaches especially those who are preparing for international competitions.
Recently, President Rodrigo Duterte signed into law Republic Act 11470, seeking to establish the National Academy of Sports. Go highlighted that with this law now in place, the Philippines will be able to catch up with the rest of the world in terms of sports development.
“The establishment of the NAS in very close proximity to world-class facilities in New Clark City will allow student-athletes to experience a level of training which is at par with the best in the world and at the same time be given quality education,” Go, one of the principal authors, said.