By Hannah Torregoza
Senator Pia Cayetano, a tri-athlete, said Filipino athletes deserve to have a Class 1 sports facility that will help build up the dream of producing more champions.
“We will make this happen. Just like a champion is not made overnight, we will persevere and build a nation of champions,” she vowed.
Cayetano stated this amid questions on the construction of the P9.5-billion state-of-the-art sports facility at the New Clark City where the cauldron to be used for the opening of the 30th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games is already worth P50-million.
The senator said the world-class sports stadium has been the training ground for the men’s triathlon and the national track and field team. According to Cayetano, it has a “competition track oval with all the bleachers around it.
Outside the stadium is a warm-up track and inside, another short track for the final warm-up.”
“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!” Cayetano said.
It was Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon who earlier cited the estimates provided by Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) Chair William Ramirez and expressed belief that the government can “successfully host the games at much less expense” if it upgraded the Rizal Memorial Stadium and made it at par with international standards.
But Cayetano said that unlike the facilities at the Rizal Memorial Stadium, the new sports stadium at the NCC boasts of an 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,” she said.
She also said that apart from having world-class sports facilities, the NCC has also been the home of the country’s tri-athletes for the past months, and 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,” she said, adding that the entire complex is designed by Budji Royal.
At the same time, Cayetano defended the construction of the cauldron which other countries that have already hosted international games have also put up.
“(Ours 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,” she said.
Cayetano also pointed out that as a responsible member of the world community, the Philippines has hosted and participated in many international events such as the 2015 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit, 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,” she stressed.
“The SEA Games will deliver as much and more. Fifty (50) years hence, our athletes and young people will continue to enjoy these facilities,” added the lawmaker.
She said the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) and National Sports Associations (NSA) are the ones in charge of the training budget.
“That is different from the construction and hosting. 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,” she emphasized.
Cayetano said that while she has her own issues with the PSC and some NSAs on the funding of athletes’ training, she nonetheless has unceasingly pushed and intervened for athletes over the years and remain committed to doing so.