Senator and Chair of Senate Committee on Sports Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go appealed to the Philippine Sports Commission to continue to promote and protect the welfare of athletes, especially the physical and mental condition of the national teams amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in the country.
“Umaapela ako sa pamunuan ng Philippine Sports Commission at iba pang ahensya ng gobyerno na patuloy nating suportahan ang ating national teams, lalong lalo na ang mga atleta,” Go said.
“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.
Go said that he sympathizes with the athletes given their situation brought about by the COVID-19 outbreak. Most athletes, especially those engaged in contact sports, are not able to train and compete given the health protocols being implemented to avoid the spread of the disease.
“Karamihan po ng atleta natin ngayon hindi makapag-training at hirap rin po sa buhay. Dahil walang kompetisyon, apektado rin po ang kanilang kabuhayan at pati rin ang allowance na kanilang natatanggap,” Go said.
Recently, the PSC has given regular allowance to around 1,000 national athletes and coaches despite its “No training, no allowance” policy. The commission also provided housing and food to stranded national team members in Metro Manila. It has also been monitoring the health status of its athletes through online medical consultations and psychological sessions.
However, allowances usually received by athletes have been adversely affected due to limited resources. This is because their allowances 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 as well.
“Halos lahat ng sector ngayon sa gobyerno ay nahihirapan. The economic blows and setbacks because of the COVID-19 pandemic are hitting our beneficiaries and the support supposedly given to them,” Go lamented.
The PSC ensured that qualified athletes and coaches will still get to receive allowances despite the “No training, no allowance” policy previously implemented. However, the amounts will be cut by half starting July and until funds are made available considering the financial situation and to make funding sustainable until the end of the year.
“Bilang chair ng Senate Committee on Sports, nananawagan ako sa PSC na gawin ang lahat upang maibigay pa rin ang suporta na kailangan ng ating mga atleta. Pag-aralan din sana kung pwedeng magkaroon ng retroactive restoration ng kanilang buong allowances kapag nakabawi na sa remittances ang PAGCOR,” Go suggested.
Foreseeing that once the COVID-19 outbreak is controlled soon and once the financial situation of PAGCOR begins to increase and normalize, PSC ensured that allowances due to athletes can be retroacted to cover the deficit during the period when allowances were cut.
“Naiintindihan ko naman ang sitwasyon nating lahat ngayon. Apektado talaga ang pagpasok ng pera sa PAGCOR ngunit sana siguraduhin natin na kapag bumalik na sa normal ang lahat at tumataas na ulit ang remittances, ibalik natin sa mga atleta at coaches ang perang kulang na hindi naibigay o maibibigay sa kasalukuyan,” Go said.
Aside from financial support, Go also urged the government to provide other forms of assistance to support national athletes and coaches especially those who are preparing for international competitions.
“Kasama na rito sa suportang dapat maibigay ng gobyerno ay ang mental health care programs lalo na sa mga apektado ng quarantine measures, tulad ng mga stranded athletes and coaches na tinutulungan rin nating makauwi sa kani-kanilang mga probinsya,” he said.
Go further urged the PSC to formulate new policies on how the sports industry can move forward amidst the new realities of the pandemic and look into the integration of technology in sports development, such as the conduct of online training and coaching.
“To our concerned government agencies, such as PSC and GAB, 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 urged.
Go, who has always been supportive of long-term grassroots sports development in the country, is a co-author of Senate Bill 1086 which is targeted to be signed into law soon.
The proposed law will establish the National Academy of Sports and enable student-athletes to be enrolled in a holistic sports high school program with a specialized curriculum, and where the government can provide full scholarships to deserving young Filipinos.
“With the establishment of the NAS in very close proximity to world-class facilities, our student-athletes can enjoy a level of training which is at par with the best in the world and at the same time be given quality education,” Go said in previous statements.
“Kapag mayroon na tayong National Academy of Sports, finally, pwede na pong sabay, while nag-aaral pwedeng mag-training,” he also said./Stacy Ang