It has been a long 20-year drought in the Olympics for the Philippines. The past decade had shown a clear deterioration in the country’s stature in international sports. And this was most evident in our standing in the recent SEA Games, where once again we ended a distant 6th in the medal standings, behind such less populous countries as Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam and Malaysia.
But there was an exciting atmosphere of hope and energy when the new Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) hosted a “Top-Level Consultative Meeting on the Development Plan for Philippine Sports” last September 1-2. Under the guidance of the new national leadership of President Rodrigo Duterte, returning PSC Chairman Butch Ramirez is determined to create a fresh dynamism and a new impetus to erase the national embarrassment our sports leaders and athletes have been suffering the past years.
Chairman Butch seems to have a lucky charm with him. He was the PSC Chairman in 2005, when the Philippines – for the first and only time – ruled the SEA Games. Today, he is the PSC Chair once again when Hidilyn finally broke the country’s 20-year absence in the Olympic podium.
Among the priorities identified by Chairman Butch is the establishment of a no-nonsense grassroots development program for the country. He believes that organizing a comprehensive grassroots program will help create a stronger society, and a stronger sports base for the Philippines. He also intends to revive the Philippine Sports Institute (PSI), and create ten (10) regional centers to push for a more focused and scientific training for the promising athletes coming from different regions. He noted that in more advanced countries, it is the Sports Academy/Institute that spearheads the development of their leading athletes, paving the way to successes that in turn inspire more people to get even more fit and physical.
The forum identified the many problems and issues that confound Philippine sports today. The Philippine Olympic Commission was also there in full force, with POC President Peping Cojuangco leading the group. Also present were National Sports Association (NSA) heads and representatives, past and present sports luminaries, sports patrons, sports analysts and media personalities.
The issues on unity among sports leaders and associations, the perennial lament of lack of support, the lack of training opportunities here and abroad, the lack of local facilities and competent coaching staff, the lack of continuity for athletic competitions after college, etc; all these were identified so that these can be addressed in the days ahead.
Former Senator Nikki Coseteng was passionate in articulating the cause of outstanding swimmers who have reaped honors for the country despite the non-support of the POC. Ditto for the Philippine Dragon Boat Federation which has the bulk of the more experienced and more competitive dragon boat paddlers. The unity issue hounding the lawn tennis and other associations which had been run like old boys’ clubs were also bared out.
But what was very encouraging during the forum was that there was a clear demonstration of support from government, with no less than 10 congressmen and 1 senator (newly-elected Senator Manny Pacquiao) taking turns to articulate their vision, plans and support for Philippine sports. Bill Velasco, one of the esteemed sports analyst who graced the forum, noted that now is perhaps the golden opportunity to pass the Department of Sports Law, with stalwarts from Congress, the Senate, and no less than the President himself staunchly behind Chairman Butch Ramirez and his sports program.
With the national government providing an unmistakable resolve to end our sporting woes, there is clearly no other way to go but up. Let’s hope and pray that this new impetus works. Let’s provide our unflinching support for Philippine sports.
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