Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go on Sunday urged the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC), Philippine Olympic Committee (POC), and other concerned agencies to craft guidelines to help national athletes bound for Olympic qualifying tournaments abroad.
Go said the guidelines must be compliant with the health protocols to allow the national athletes compete in various Olympic qualifying tournaments for 2021 Tokyo Summer Olympics even during the general community quarantine being imposed to contain the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.
“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 makabubuti sa kanilang pag-eensayo (While we fight this pandemic and prepare for new normal after this crisis, we need to prepare our athletes so that they can safely prepare for their trainings and upcoming tournaments),” Go said.
Go, chair of the Senate committee on sports, said his office has already relayed this concern to PSC chairman William Ramirez and POC president and Cavite Rep. Abraham Tolentino.
“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 malalagay sa alanganin dahil sa kumakalat na sakit (Majority of our athletes have not trained for three months. PSC and POC should plan how our athletes can prepare for competitions without compromising their health),” he said.
He said both Ramirez and Tolentino agreed to sit down soon and work on the necessary guidelines to allow the national athletes to resume their trainings through the available sports facilities.
Go said guidelines must be implemented in close coordination with the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID).
“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,” said Go, who is also chair of the Senate committee on health.
He said there are available sports facilities that can be used for trainings without violating the health protocols set by IATF-EID.
“They (PSC and POC) can ensure that health protocols are followed, proper sanitation is maintained, and Covid-19 testings are made available when necessary,” Go said.
The Philippines emerged overall champion when it hosted the 30th Southeast Asian Games last year.
“We are overall champion in the 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,” Go said.
Go also said 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.
In a related development, Games and Amusements Board chairman Abraham Kahlil Mitra has also presented to the IATF-EID their suggested protocols and guidelines for professional sports.
IATF’s technical working group is presently studying the matter.
Meanwhile, Go appealed to the PSC to continue to promote and protect the welfare of national athletes, especially their physical and mental condition amid the Covid-19 crisis.
“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 (Our athletes bring honors for our country through their skills and talents. Let’s show them our full support, not only in the games, but in the times of need),” he said.
The PSC assured that qualified athletes and coaches will still 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 (Pagcor) as provided by law.
Pagcor’s remittances to PSC for sports development substantially declined due to the pandemic that adversely affected Pagcor’s operations.
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.
“To our concerned government agencies, please continue to monitor and support the welfare of athletes through other innovative means especially in conducting online trainings and by providing guidelines for other sports competitions to resume activities in a safe manner and in compliance with health protocols,” Go said.
Recently, President Rodrigo Duterte signed into law Republic Act 11470, seeking to establish the National Academy of Sports.
Go said 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,” said Go, one of the principal authors of the law.