Home is where the law is
CTALK - Cito Beltran (The Philippine Star) - December 4, 2019 - 12:00am

According to certain government officials, the New Clark City Sports Complex or Athletes Village will become a permanent home or training center for Filipino athletes after the 30th SEA Games. Judging from what’s come out in the news, Wikipedia and the likes, the entire complex will certainly be a breakthrough investment for Philippine Sports given how very little has been spent on facilities all through several presidencies. I strongly support the idea, which was mentioned by President Duterte in 2017 and delegated to Philippine Sports Commissioner William Ramirez, and most recently repeated by Bases Conversion Development Authority or BCDA president Vince Dizon who personally directed the development and realization of the project.

There are however certain concerns about turning the idea into a reality. To begin with the Athlete’s Village or New Clark City Sports Stadium is officially owned by the BCDA and as we all know “Possession is 9/10ths of the law” unless we have a law that states that the New Clark City Sports Complex is owned, belongs or to be transferred to the Philippine Sports Commission or whatever governing body there is for the athletes. Unless Congress and the Senate pass such a law, “the complex” remains the property of the BCDA which in turn has most recently been quoted as saying that they have plans to turn “the complex” into a mixed use development, meaning it can be used for sports but also for many other events; commercial, entertainment and others. Unless the Athletes Village is turned over to sports officials, our athletes cannot confidently call “the complex” their home. There is even a risk that the P7 or P8-billion project to be paid with taxpayers could or might end up being managed or absorbed by private companies or developers when we all forget about the 30th SEA Games.

Assuming that the BCDA does intend to turn over the complex to the PSC or sports officials, we still need a law that will insure the sustainability and long-term maintenance of the complex. Many such facilities and projects have been built in the past but ended up in disarray because after building them we simply forget that we need to provide for the repair and maintenance and operations of such facilities. That is why we only recently repaired the Rizal Memorial Complex and the ULTRA Sports stadium. We waited until they are ruined and almost unusable or because someone suggested, “to demolish” or “sell them” before we act and spend money on them. Ironically, renovations always cost so much more than scheduled maintenance and annual appropriations or funding. Lawmakers need to pass a law that will provide continuing funding for the maintenance and repair of the new Clark City sports complex based on a world-class maintenance program and not wait until it’s too late. 

As important as legislating annual budgets for operations and maintenance of the complex is, we need to legislate a well designed program for the relocation, training and education of athletes that will include not just mentors in sports and physical fitness but on-line or on site education of school age or collegiate athletes. We are now in a place and time where relocation does not necessarily mean displacement or severe disruption. Accessibility, mobility and connectivity and solar power are no longer major hurdles particularly in the New Clark City. But in order to sustain the vision and the goal of a Philippine Athletic Village, legislators must make sure it’s continuity and sustainability. The threat to such long term plans and vision is usually the shortsighted interference of political appointees who divert athletic funding to their own political priorities. With a clear and solid law, the athletes can say: You Can’t Touch It!     

I don’t know if there are plans to do a swap where the BCDA will turn over “the complex” in exchange for possession of the historical Rizal Memorial Complex that was originally supposed to be “sold” or demolished and turned into a commercial development until the National Historical Commission (NHCP) said no way Jose, citing it as a historical landmark. Rizal Memorial Complex grounds is officially owned by the City of Manila, while the buildings and facilities are managed by the PSC. Now that Manila can’t sell it or break it, things would remain status quo. But with the construction of the Athletes Villages in Clark City, Rizal Memorial will be more historical than practical in terms of training and development of current and future athletes. Instead of having a very old “white elephant” that loses money, it might be better for the City of Manila, BCDA and PSC to do a three-way swap on paper that will allow the BCDA to take over the commercial management of Rizal Memorial and will let BCDA appropriately “develop” Rizal Memorial into a historical mixed used facility and tourist attraction without having to give up or destroy it. If BCDA does as good a job as they did with the Athletes Village, Mayor Isko Moreno might end up with an even bigger historical tourist attraction aligned with the revival of the Grand City of Manila. In addition the City of Manila can get better returns from rentals, taxes and revenues as owner of Rizal Memorial Complex.

Going back to my original point, now that President Duterte’s directive has come to life as the New Clark City Athletic Complex, I hope he pushes the envelope further to make sure that a law is written to sustain, maintain and protect not just the New Clark City Sports Complex but the future Home of every Filipino Athlete.

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E-mail: utalk2ctalk@gmail.com


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