A little more than a year ago, newly-elected President Rodrigo Roa Duterte assumed the reign of government as head of this nation.
After six years of neglect Philippine sports had gotten from the previous administration, the former Davao City Mayor’s election to the government’s highest post was believed to have offered glimmer of hopes to finally bring winds of change in efforts to bring back the glory Filipino athletes enjoyed not so long ago in the global arenas.
As if by cue, pint-sized Hidilyn Diaz brought home the silver medal in her event in the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games held August in that Brazilian capital, in the process, breaking a 20-year medal drought the country had suffered in the quadrennial conclave known also as the “Greatest Sports Show on Earth.”
Moved by the Zamboanguena’s triumphant march to the victory podium last gifted to the Philippines by boxer Mansueto ”Onyok” in Atlanta in 1996, President Duterte immediately issued one marching order after another to his newly-appointed members of the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) board in an initial attempt to cure what many diagnosed as the dying state of sports in this country.
First, President Duterte saw it fit to accord Diaz, a Philippine Air Force sergeant, an increase in the allowance she received in her efforts in Rio from measly $300 to $1,000.
Duterte then instructed anointed PSC chair William “Butch” Ramirez, long-time confidante and his commissioners—basketball legend Ramon Fernandez, Charles Maxey, Arnold Agustin and Celia Kiram to implement as soon as possible the needed measures to regain, the “Little Brown Dolls” status as world-beaters in the sports of their choices, including the long-awaited setting up of the Philippine Sports Institute (PSI).
As fast, too, the PSC dispatched a 50-man group of sports instructors to the provinces to coordinate with local government units (LGUs), provincial sports leaders and all stakeholders on a regular weekly basis aimed at consulting those concerned in determining the needs in their respective localities in effecting a nation-wide grass root development program with emphasis on youth.
“The PSI, actually, has been in full operation for several months now,” Ramirez assured The Manila Times in a one-on-one interview last week. “All the ingredients required for us to embark a truly, honest massive grass root programs are already in place.”
As of this writing, Ramirez swore, these young group of PSC instructors-trainors have already covered 80% of the entire archipelago in the performance of the duties and responsibilities tasked them.
“No, hindi na ito ningas kugon as what had happened before in the previous attempts to set up similar schemes,” Ramirez asserted. “This is what our President wants us to do so we might as well make good its implementation as mandated us by RA 6847 (PSC Law).”
The program, according to the PSC top honcho, includes providing upgraded facilities to the already existing sports venues complete with necessary sports science equipment as well as training and support personnel.
An amount of P80 million has been earmarked for the purchase of modern, state of the art facilities on sport medicine.
The needs of elite athletes will, likewise, be addressed, Ramirez said with Philsports Arena compound in Pasig City serving as the temporary national training center in the absence of a permanent site which is still in the planning stage.
More than year ago last June 30, then President Benigno Simeon Aquino III transferred to Duterte the reign as Chief Executive of the nation, ending a six-year neglect that saw the Philippines ending up a shameful seventh place overall finish in the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games.
That forgettable 2011 experience was the worst ever suffered by the Filipino athletes since the country’s admission as member the SEA Games Federation 40 years ago.
What made that lowly wind up more bitter was it came on the heels of being on the top of the SEA sporting world in 2005 during the Philippines last hosting of the biennial conclave.
So neglected was sports during the watch of President Cory’s only son that he did not even attempt to send off nor welcome any national athletic delegation that carried the country’s flag in all seven international competitions held in shoes years – the Asian Games in 2010 and 2014, the Olympic Games in 2012 and 2016 and the SEA Games in 2011, 2013 and 2015.
Giving blessing to departing athletes and contingents and welcoming them when they return home victorious has been a tradition all Heads of State from President Manuel Quezon of the Commonwealth era to Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo have been honoring as fathers and mothers of the nation.
President Arroyo even went to the extent of honoring returning athletes who brought medals and trophies home by giving out the incentives in awarding ceremonies held right in Malacanang in recognition to their heroics as well as additional motivation for them to perform better the next time they are again chosen to carry the country’s colors in international plays.
That forgotten practice will resume, Ramirez told this writer after getting assurance from the Palace by the Pasig River that the President will be giving his blessing to the some 700-man national delegation the Philippines is dispatching to the coming 29th edition of the SEA Games set from August 19 to 30 in Kuala Lumpur, the same site where the Filipino athletes first saw action against the best in the region in 1977.