Mark Joseph, POC (Philippine Olympic Committee) board member and president of the Philippine Aquatic Sports Association, expressed a most valid observation about the little appreciation being given to sports as a tool for national development. Most Filipinos only see sports as games and competition but fail to recognize how sports can contribute to national development.
Mark said: “We know from the International Social Survey Program (www.issp.org) of 1998 and 2004 that sports and history are Filipinos’ top sources of national pride and patriotism. Ninety-four percent of Filipinos rank as important our participation and being represented in the Olympics, with 90 percent saying that sports play an important role in developing the character of the youth.”
Mark added: “I dare say that the Pacquiao phenomenon is a product of our national aspiration, and not the other way round. It’s not coincidental that after the 2004 survey, we won the overall SEA Games Championship in 2005, then crested Mt. Everest, and even won the World Hip-Hop Olympics! Great strides in sports (and the battlefield) always precede great achievements by any nation.”
Mark is hopeful that the thrust taken by POC president, Jose “Peping” Cojuangco Jr., will not just improve Filipino performance in international sports competitions but also assist in national development. Mark noted that when “Peping was elected president of POC, he brought a new message to us. Instead of the “let’s develop sports” mantra, he was constantly shifting our paradigms by talking about sport as a tool for national development.”
Mark added: “This got me very interested, so I began doing research — particularly to find out how exactly this could be done, and if we’re ready for that. The implications of this approach are many, but as an example it would mean that we in the Olympic movement should engage government and the various agencies involved in sports to take the cost of sports development out of the expense bracket and instead consider it as an investment.”
To highlight his point about the link between sports and development, Mark cited the following:
1. The International Olympic Committee entered into partnerships with the United Nations for the Olympic Truce (Sport is Peace, the Olympic Ideal).
2. The World Health Organization used sports as a vehicle to deliver education to the youth in the fight against HIV-AIDS.
3. The UNESCO promoted the role of sports in achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
4. The UN Environment Protection agency correlated sports with the environment.
5. The UNICEF highly regarded sports and education of children.
In contrast, Mark stated that “a survey done by the National Youth Commission shows that only 5 percent of Filipino youth engage in sports or exercise on a regular basis, 6 percent are involved in illegal drugs, 7 percent in the insurgency, 8 percent in prostitution, 11 percent premature pregnancies and 14 percent have trouble with the police.” He added: “So the reality is that we have high aspirations and hope for our young, and see sports as the way but we have to converge the Olympic movement and the government objectives to ensure that we have a national sporting system that is aligned vertically and horizontally to provide as many pathways, or a clear pathway for kids to get from the playground to the podium.”
Mark emphasized the need to establish a “pipeline” and with government, provide Filipinos as many opportunities as possible to be involved in sports. For example, the community level could be addressed through the Department of Interior and Local Governments. The students can be addressed through the Department of Education (DepEd), various school leagues like the UAAP, NCAA and so forth.
However, Mark admitted that government participation will not be enough to realize the goal. Sports will need the support and participation of the private sector. He said: “Our research shows that only some 5 percent of the top 5,000 corporations support sports, and none or very few see sports as part of their corporate social responsibility programs, instead focusing on the basics like — hunger, housing, education.
Mark noted: “In a sports-loving nation where the youth comprise the majority, POC President Peping Cojuangco’s vision for sports to be an actor in national development can be a reality. This concept is called “the value of sport” and it has been quantified that for every $1 invested in sports, $3.50 is saved in terms of health care costs, environmental degradation, criminality and drug use, and economic development sans instability due to war, terrorism and insurgency.”
It was in this context that the 1st Philippine Sports Congress was held last December 4, organized jointly by the Philippine Olympic Committee and the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC). Attending the Congress were various sports stakeholders from the other government agencies including the Office of the President, DepEd, Department of National Defense, DILG, Congress and so forth as well as from the private sector, the academe and naturally the National Sports Associations.
The Congress sought to bring sports stakeholders together and not just be another “summit” full of motherhood statements. It was conducted to create “buy in” and commitment from interested sectors and parties. This was achieved and a key to the success of the First Congress is the fact that POC and the PSC are united.
At the Congress, PSC Chairman Richie Garcia detailed the stark financial and management problems facing the PSC, pointed out the problems facing sports today including the lack of funds, lack of coordination between government agencies, leadership problems in some NSAs and the tendency for Filipinos to gravitate towards sports that provide economic mobility (like Boxing and Basketball), and the lack of sports facilities.
Major issues that need to be addressed include: implementation of the law mandating 5 percent of gross income for PSC (which was stopped during the Ramos, Erap and GMA administrations, such that PSC only receives 2.5 percent), working with Congress, Philracom and PCSO so that the PSC receives its proper benefits from horse racing and lotto, and of course working with the Department of Finance to ensure that the law providing tax incentives to sports donors and importers of sports technology and equipment are implemented.
Peping Cojuangco presented the plans and programs for 2011-2016 including the creation of working committees involving the members of the Sports Congress (to tackle the consolidation of efforts and funds towards a single talent identification ladder), the aligning of efforts of existing grassroots programs (community and school based) in cooperation with the POC and PSC, and of course, the formation of elite training programs and the construction of elite training facilities for our top athletes.
He also addressed the need for direct support to full-time athletes, the needed amendments to existing sports laws, and batted for better government incentives for corporate donors, coaches and athletes. Peping said: “Another hallmark of the successful sporting nations is that they have opportunities for a “second career” after their sporting career is over, be it through education so they can move onto professional life or as coaches, trainers, administrators etc of sports.”
At the end of the Congress, Peping discussed the Philippine hosting of the 3rd Asian Beach Games which has been awarded to the Philippines by the Olympic Council of Asia’s President Sheikh Ahmad Al-Sabah Al Fahad, also the Deputy Prime Minister of Kuwait. The Beach Games is a new phenomenon, and the OCA president feels strongly that the Philippines is a perfect venue for this, not just because of our beautiful beaches but also because we have the capability of hosting a Continental Games, something we have not done since the 1950s.
The Beach Games will be televised all throughout Asia with billions of viewers. The event is a great opportunity to promote our country as a tourist destination.
Indeed, we must go beyond the “feel good” of sports and start tapping into the high aspirations of our people.
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