WITH a swimming career that has spanned almost five decades, Coach Efren Jocson is not only considered an expert in his field but also a credible observer of Philippine sports in general. Through the years, he has witnessed what is sadly a worsening decline in support for the Filipino athlete.
“During our time, Filipino athletes were more privileged. We were given incentives to become more competitive,” Jocson recalled. “It is sad that our local athletes are not given equal opportunities to develop their full potential nowadays, and worse, it seems that those with foreign blood are given more priority.”
He has seen for himself how government officials pocket funds that are meant for athletes’ allowance. He lamented, “Athletes would only get half of what they should be receiving.
For example, if they are allocated P1,000, they only end up with P400 because of unwarranted deductions.”
The situation naturally discourages youngsters from fulfilling their full potential, especially those from underprivileged families, leaving the country with very few dedicated athletes for competition.
“In the past, the government would go all around the country to look for potential champions, who would then be taken care of,” Jocson continued. “Today, this hardly happens, and for me, support for an athlete who has given the country pride should go beyond their retirement. They should be offered jobs to teach or become consultants for them to sustain decent lives. Instead, the first thing our champions have to face is the BIR rather than a reward for the honor they have brought home.”
With the national elections coming up, Jocson hopes that the next president of the Philippines will finally give the realm of sports the attention it deserves.