“Many of these athletes have also experienced financial constraints brought by the lack of sufficient support from the public and private sectors, which made their training even harder.”
By GABBIE CASTRO and DAWN CECILIA PEÑA
MANILA – A progressive youth partylist is seeking more support for Filipino athletes, following the strong Tokyo 2020 campaign where the country earned its first-ever gold medal, two silvers, and a bronze.
“Given the recent inclusion and success of our athletes in the Olympics, we filed the following [House Resolutions] addressing problems in the sports sector and calling for support towards athletes,” Kabataan Partylist said in their statement.
On July 27, Kabataan Partylist filed several house resolutions seeking support for Filipino athletes.
“These athletes have displayed resiliency, adaptability, commitment and determination as they qualified in the biggest world sports event despite the difficulty in training amidst the COVID-19 pandemic which brought physical, mental, and emotional stress to our athletes,” House Resolution No. 2005 read. It seeks the commending and support for the 24 Filipino athletes participating in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and the 2020 Tokyo Summer Paralympics.
They also filed another house resolution seeking to commend tennis player Alex Eala for her achievements in her chosen sport. She recently won both in the singles and doubles tournament held in Milan, Italy, securing her place as the International Tennis Federation’s World No. 2 Girls Junior Tennis player.
Setbacks during a pandemic
With the Tokyo Olympics currently underway, the house resolutions focused on how funding and training for each athlete should be considered a priority.
Kabataan Partylist, per its House Resolution No. 2003 filed on July 27, detailed the disruption of their athletic careers due to the pandemic. The Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF), the government’s pandemic response arm, prohibited amateur and non-professional commercial sports leagues from organizing events, while sporting venues were converted into quarantine facilities.
The resolution called for the safe and gradual resumption of their respective training and the prioritization of their vaccination.
Professional athletes are not the only ones who experienced setbacks during the pandemic, student-athletes have also encountered hindrances in their routines.
Under House Resolution 2007, Kabataan Partylist urged the Philippine government, through the IATF and the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC), to allow the safe resumption of the training of the student-athletes, as well as to cover their respective expenses.
The resolution elaborated that due to the restriction of physical interactions, the students were not able to train. It was also specified that the lack of training and competition opportunities may hinder the development of their respective athletic careers.
The resolution compelled the PSC to allot a budget in the General Appropriations Act of 2022 that will cover the resumption of the student athlete’s training, risk management, and the loss of their financial benefit.
Call for funding
In the last five years, the Philippine Sports Commission saw a steady increase in its budget allocations for the Amateur Sports Development Program.
Its aim is directed towards “fostering growth individually and within the community through sports,” while addressing the challenge of making sports accessible for everyone regardless of gender, age, and socio-cultural background.
However, the total appropriations for the commission have been fluctuating since 2017. The lowest of which was given in 2018, with only P199 million ($3.9 million) in funding.
In addition, allocations for machinery and equipment were only given in two out of the last five years, 2019 and 2020, amounting to a little over 1 billion pesos ($19 million). The majority of these funds were used for the renovation of PSC-controlled venues and facilities for the 30th SEA Games.
In 2016, Filipino professional basketball head coach and former Pampanga representative Joseller ‘Yeng’ Guiao appealed to the Supreme Court to restore the PSC its full 30-percent share from the earnings of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) and the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO), as indicated in the Philippine law that established the sports commission.
Since 1993, however, PAGCOR only contributed 2.1 percent of its gross income, per executive order by then-President Fidel Ramos. Meanwhile, the PCSO refused to comply with the law. Guiao’s plea remains pending before the high court as of this writing.
Lack of support
Kabataan Partylist, per House Resolution No. 2005, said that, “many of these athletes have also experienced financial constraints brought by the lack of sufficient support from the public and private sectors, which made their training even harder.”
The lack of support for athletes was echoed by weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz when she raised concerns through an Instagram post last 2019.
She bared her difficulties in finding sponsorship and financial support to fund her journey to the Tokyo Olympics, despite gaining massive popularity when she won the first gold for the Philippines in the 2018 Asian Games.
Filipino boxer Eumir Marcial, who recently won bronze in the men’s middleweight quarterfinals, also lamented the hardships he had to endure to prepare for the Olympics through a Facebook post last May 2021.
“Since last year when I was still in the United States until now here in Zamboanga City, do you think P43,000 ($850) is enough of a monthly allowance to prepare for the Olympics? Do you think I can rely on the P43,000 for the plane tickets, accommodation, food, coaching staff, supplements, masseurs, etc?” Marcial explained in Filipino.
He added that all expenses needed for his training in the United States were either provided by private sponsors or came out of his own pocket.
This came after the PSC stated that they did not stop providing Marcial his allowance after the latter claimed he did not receive training support in the US. Marcial ended his post by questioning if Filipino athletes are weak for not winning gold in the Olympics, or if the problem hugely relies on the support given to them.
As Diaz and Marcial won the elusive Olympic medals for their respective sports, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque admitted in a press briefing last July 26, that the budget allotted for the sector is, in fact, insufficient.
“I am aware that it is inadequate. It’s like providing our athletes with an allowance comparable to minimum wage. We will find ways on how we can change this,” said Roque in Filipino.
He added that Diaz’s win in the Tokyo Olympics could be a “game-changer” for Philippine sports.