Go supports protection, welfare of combat sports athletes

Go supports protection, welfare of combat sports athletes

Senator Christopher Lawrence ‘Bong’ Go

MANILA (Philippines News Agency) – Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go reiterated his commitment to help the Filipino athletes as he pushed for the passage of two Senate bills that seek to create a Philippine Boxing and Combat Sports Commission.

“I express my full support for the objectives of Senate Bill No. 193 and Senate Bill No. 805,” Go said during Wednesday’s public hearing jointly conducted by the Senate committees on sports, finance, and health and demography.

He said the bills would not only strengthen and develop the quality of the country’s professional boxing and combat sports but “also ensure the protection and welfare of its athletes.”

“The achievement of the objectives under the proposed Senate bills can be a step in the right direction. This will not only provide a big boost to Philippine boxing and other combat sports. It will also secure the country’s rightful place as a serious contender in the sporting world,” Go added.

The lawmaker from Davao City acknowledged the contribution to the country of great Filipino boxers, including eight-division world champion, Senator Manny Pacquiao, who filed Senate Bill (SB) 193.

“Ang diskarte, tapang, at galing na kanilang pinamalas sa loob ng boxing ring ay nagbigay ng malaking karangalan sa bansa at sa buong lahing Pilipino (The strategies, courage, and skills they displayed inside the boxing ring brought great honors to our country and to the whole Filipino race),” he said.

Go also called for greater support for the Filipino athletes.

“Sana ay maisip din po natin na naabot nila ang tagumpay sa kabila ng konting suporta na nagmumula sa gobyerno. Paano na lang kaya kung itodo pa natin ang ating suporta sa mga ito? (We should remember that they became successful despite small support from government. How much more if we will give our all-out support),” he said.

With the emergence and popularity of combat sports in the country, Go said he believes that “if we also give our full support to these emerging combat sports, they will become a source of prestige, honor and medals for the country.”

He urged other government officials to support the plight of boxers and other combat sports athletes.

“Napatunayan na po ng ating mga atletang Pilipino ang kakayahan nila sa larangan ng sports. Sa pamamagitan ng mga panukalang ito, patunayan din po natin – bilang mga miyembro ng Senado at ng gobyerno – na sinusuportahan natin ang mga atleta ng ating bayan (The Filipinos have proven what they can do in the field of sports. Through these bills, let us prove as members of the Senate and the government that we support our athletes),” Go said.

Support for the bills

As chair of the Senate Committee on Sports, Go presided over the hearing where resource persons from both the public and private sectors shared their positions on the bills.

Most representatives of relevant government agencies expressed support for the bills, including the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC), Department of Health (DOH), Pag-IBIG Fund, Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth), and Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor).

Representatives of the Muay Thai Association of the Philippines and Elorde Boxing also expressed their support.

However, the Games and Amusements Board (GAB), which regulates and supervises professional sports and allied activities in the country, is against the creation of the new commission.

“While we laud the initiative, feeling namin nagagawa na namin ang mga gustong gawin at ang mga gusto pang ipagawa sa amin, maaari naman naming gawin basta maalalayan lang po kami nang konti (we feel that we have done what we want to do and we can perform the tasks given to us, so long as we would be given little assistance),” GAB chairman Abraham Kahlil Mitra said.

Through their president, the members of the Association of Philippine Professional Boxing Ring Officials also stated that they are “fine with the leadership” of Mitra.

Likewise, the Department of Budget and Management said “the creation of the proposed commission is deemed not necessary since its proposed functions, programs, projects, and activities are already inherent or currently being undertaken by the different offices or units” of the PSC and GAB.

Pacquiao clarified that he was “not questioning the capability of GAB” and he understands the agency’s position, but as a boxer for more than 25 years, he said “it’s necessary to establish a commission to handle and focus on the sport.”

“Napakahirap talaga. Muntik na akong madisgrasya bago ko narating ito ngayon. Maraming mga kailangang gawin at hakbang para sa ating mga atleta, especially ‘yung mga (It’s really difficult. I almost put my life in danger before I reached this position. A lot should be done for our athletes, especially) SSS, PhilHealth, medical requirements before the fight or regularly,” he said.

Pacquiao also noted that the country has a Philippine Racing Commission for horse racing, so there should also be a similar body for boxing, which is a more difficult sport.

Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa and representatives of the Governance Commission for GOCCs (GCG) and Lakay Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) Top Team also participated in the hearing.

When the team’s chairman, Mark Sangiao, aired the difficulties that combat athletes face, Go asked him to submit a formal letter so the latter could find ways to address the problems.

Go’s questions

Because creating the Philippine Boxing and Combat Sports Commission would affect the functions of GAB, Go asked the DBM if there were instances “in the bureaucracy where we separated one of the functions of a government agency and created a new one.”

Ma. Elsa Rivera, a representative of DBM, answered that the government has addressed the issues of redundant functions of government offices through Executive Order 366, signed in 2004.

“We already did that during the Rationalization Plan. Those agencies with similar functions, it’s either we merged them or we placed them in a single agency so that there will be no duplications of functions,” Rivera said.

She cited as an example the establishment of the Philippine Statistics Authority, which absorbed the National Statistics Office, National Statistical Coordination Board, and statistics-related functions of the Department of Labor and Employment.

When asked about the kind of assistance needed to ensure that professional boxing and combat sports can be fully managed and taken care of under GAB, Mitra told Go that the agency needs additional funding.

Go said another hearing would be scheduled so that other resource persons who were not able to attend would be given a chance to participate. (PR)

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