Pia: “We should persevere to build a nation of champions”

Sen. Pia Cayetano’s statement on gov’t funding for the 30th SEA Games

My brother Alan Peter Cayetano, who is currently the Speaker of the House, took on the job as Chair of the organizing committee of the Southeast Asian Games when he was still DFA Secretary. He did not have to, but he did it because he believed that our athletes should have a chance to shine in our own country and the SEA Games.

Last Tuesday, he voluntarily appeared before the Senate, something which any Speaker of the House has never done before. He set aside protocol because he believed it was more important to shed light on the credibility of the SEA Games preparation. Thus, his appearance as a resource person during the Senate’s deliberation of the budget of the Philippine Sports Commission in connection with the SEA Games.

He explained how the government, through the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA), took on the task of building a world-class Sports Stadium that is now in New Clark City. It has a competition track oval with all the bleachers around it. Outside the stadium there is a warm-up track and inside the stadium is another short track for the final warm-up.

This Sports Stadium has been the training ground of the men’s triathlon and the national track and field team.

When we first brought the national track team there, I ran with them. Some of them were crying and saying that they never dreamed of seeing something like this ever built for them. The Rizal Memorial Stadium is 84 years old!

There is also the internationally certified Aquatics Center, with a main competition 10-lane, 50-meter pool; a 50-meter, 8-lane warm-up pool; and a dive pool.

All of these are requirements to get a Class 1 certification.  This means we can now host events here for our athletes as qualifiers for the big  international events.

Apart from having world-class sports facilities, the New Clark City has also been the home of our triathletes for the past months. The Athletes’ Village located in the NCC are like spartan hotels.

In the Senate, we are in the process of passing a law creating the Philippine High School for Sports that will also be housed in the New Clark City.

This entire complex is designed by Budji Royal. The cauldron, which is something other countries have also put up, is an artistic creation of National Artist Francisco Mañosa. It is cheaper than the cauldrons made by Singapore and Malaysia, the last two SEA Games hosts. In fact, as Speaker Alan mentioned, we are spending much less than these two countries did for the hosting of the events.

Also, it bears pointing out that as a responsible member of the world community, we host and participate in many international events such as the hosting of the 2015 APEC and the ASEAN’s 50th anniversary in 2017.  Both cost billions of pesos. Yet it was clear to us that there were tangible and intangible benefits that our country could derive from such events.

The SEA Games will deliver as much and more. Fifty (50) years hence, our athletes and young people will continue to enjoy these  facilities.

When  it comes to the training budget, that is different from the construction and hosting. That is the lookout of Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) and the various National Sports Associations (NSA). They receive funding from the national government and PAGCOR. There are also contributions from the private sector, which is common in many countries.

As a former national athlete,  I know that it is not cheap to train! Aside from training with good coaches and training facilities, our elite athletes need nutritious food supplements, strength and conditioning coaches, sports psychologists, nutritionists, physical therapists, and more! And we cannot sacrifice our athletes’ training/living needs.

I have my own issues with PSC and some NSAs on the funding of athletes’ training, but I have unceasingly pushed and intervened for athletes over the years and remain committed to doing this, including grassroots programs I’ve done throughout the years through my Gabriel’s Symphony Foundation and Pinay in Action initiatives.

As Speaker of the House, Alan also wants to spread grassroots programs and construct more sports facilities all over the country.

We will make this happen. Just like a champion is not made overnight, we will persevere and build a nation of champions.#

Senator and triathlete Pia Cayetano trains with members of the Philippine national triathlon pool at the Athletics Stadium in New Clark City.
Senator Pia Cayetano trains with members of the national heptathlon team at the indoor warm-up track of the New Clark City Athletics Stadium.

 

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