By Filane Mikee Cervantes
MANILA – A measure exempting the rewards, bonuses, and emoluments for national athletes and coaches who compete or win international sports competitions from all taxes, fees, and charges has hurdled committee level at the House of Representatives.
In a virtual meeting on Monday, the House Committee on Ways and Means approved the unnumbered substitute bill for the proposed Hidilyn Diaz Act of 2021, which seeks to amend Republic Act No. 10699 or the National Athletes and Coaches Benefits and Incentives Act.
The base bill was filed by Speaker Lord Allan Velasco and Committee Chair Joey Salceda in light of the historic gold medal win by weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Salceda noted that this was the first gold medal for the Philippines since it joined the Olympics in 1924, adding that the country also won two silvers courtesy of boxers Nesthy Petecio and Carlo Paalam and one bronze won by another boxer Eumir Marcial for its strongest ever Olympic performance.
“As promised, we did it this week. There are still some issues to reconcile with the Committee on Youth and Sports, such as whether we want to include local sports competitions. But we’ll do that probably on the House floor. As for the duty of the Committee on Ways and Means, we have already dispensed it,” Salceda said.
He stressed that while the tax exemptions are one thing, “public investment” is the greater need, citing that “the best Olympic performance of this country corresponded with the largest public investment in our Olympic program, ever.”
He said under President Rodrigo Duterte, the budget for Philippine sports is at PHP944 million for this year, which is almost four times the budgets under past presidents.
“Investment really makes a difference. I hope we can invest in training, facilities, nutrition, and conditioning,” Salceda said.
He highlighted the need for sports academies in the regions to deepen the bench of eventual national athletes.
“Support has to be end-to-end. The tax exemption on prizes is very important and timely, but if we want to keep winning, we have to invest in our athletes when they are still preparing to win,” Salceda said. (PNA)