Pushing sports to the hilt
COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva (The Philippine Star) - December 6, 2019 - 12:00am

Ten Filipino kickboxers competing in the ongoing 30th South East Asian (SEA) Games will see action this week at the Cuneta Astrodome. Among the cheerleaders who will surely be at the ringside to watch them carry the Philippine flag for a possible gold medal haul is Senator Francis “Tol” Tolentino. As the president of the Samahang Kickboxing ng Pilipinas (SKP), Tolentino roots for the Philippine team.

Sen. Tolentino hosted last night at Intramuros, Manila a welcome dinner reception for over 140 athletes, sports officials, and technical officers and staff and the respective ambassadors of the seven participating countries in the kick boxing competitions at the SEA Games. Tolentino is one of the heads of the national sports associations (NSAs) fielding athletes to the Philippine medal campaign in the biennial sports contests in this region.

This is the first time that kickboxing will be held in the SEA Games. It is a martial arts contest between two protagonists who kick and punch each other to score points on per round basis. Like a regular boxing match, there is a referee inside the ring and judges score the martial arts game.  

Attending our Kapihan sa Manila Bay last Wednesday, Sen. Tolentino declined to predict how our Pinoy kickboxing team will fare in this martial arts sports contest. While he candidly admits our kickboxing team does not expect any gold medal finish, Tolentino swore the Philippine kickboxing team is fully armed by their never-say-die fighting spirit and counts upon the home crowd cheering by their fellow Filipinos to carry them through the stiff fight for medals.

Realistically, Tolentino pointed out, Thailand is the team to beat in this combat sports that originated from their country. He also pointed to Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos where kickboxing is the most popular contact sports contest. Also competing in this event are kickboxing athletes from Malaysia and Indonesia. The SEA Games kickboxing competitions will be held from Dec. 7-10.

The Senator could afford to spend time with the Philippine kickboxing team while enjoying the one-week session break from his legislative duties as member of the 18th Congress. This is because the Senators unanimously agreed to suspend their sessions for the entire week, citing, among other reasons, the Senate building is located close to a number of venues and sites of the various sports events for the SEA Games like the Cuneta Astrodome and at the World Trade Center, both of which are also in Pasay City.

Their counterparts though from the House of Representatives, on the other hand, are undisturbed in their sessions at the Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City. 

Moreover, 15 out of the 24 Senators are members of the bicameral conference committee reconciling the differing versions of the proposed 2020 budget bill. The 18th Congress is under time pressure to meet their self-imposed deadline to approve the proposed 2020 General Appropriations Act (GAA) bill. The leaders of the Senate and the House have committed to pass the 2020 GAA bill by next week before they adjourn for their Christmas break starting Dec. 19.

They promised to President Rodrigo Duterte there won’t be a repeat of the re-enacted budget like what happened to the 2019 appropriations act due to delayed approval of the budget bill. Speaking of the 2019 GAA, Tolentino is among the Senators who joined the calls to look into the alleged corruption and other shenanigans that marred the preparations of the country’s hosting of the 30th SEA Games.

Officials of the Philippine SEA Games Organizing Committee (PHISGOC) blamed the delayed release of their Congress-approved P6 billion under the 2019 budget law as the principal cause behind the glitches, lapses, and other reported mishandling of the country’s preparations for the SEA Games. 

Although he is practically part of the SEA Games, Sen. Tolentino reiterated his stand to join the Senate investigation into these reported mess once the SEA Games are over on Dec. 11.

Incidentally, Sen. Tolentino’s older brother, Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino, is the current president of the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC). The older Tolentino also heads one of the NSA members of the POC as president of the Cycling Federation of the Philippines. Tolentino’s brother along with Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) chairman William “Butch” Ramirez are co-chair of Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano at the PHISGOC.

“My theory here on the lapses from the beginning, the NSAs should have done their own things,” Tolentino told us during our Kapihan sa Manila Bay. He particularly mentioned SKP as good example of how NSAs should have chipped in to the preparations for their respective events in the SEA Games instead of centralized system being done through the years.

Overall, Sen. Tolentino noted with satisfaction the PHISGOC was able to deliver the country’s commitments to the holding of the 30th SEA Games despite the challenges along the way. This is not to mention the fact that the SEA Games were nearly totally disrupted by super typhoon “Tisoy.” Thankfully, “Tisoy” made only a quick pass in Metro Manila and Central Luzon provinces that hosted the various SEA Games like the New Clark City in Pampanga.

After the SEA Games, Tolentino said he would push the passage into law of the Philippine Sports Academy bill which is among the priority legislative measures mentioned by President Duterte during his state of the nation address at the opening of the 18th Congress last July. Once the Academy is established, it will be located in New Clark City where several world-class sports arenas were put up for the SEA Games.

“We hope at the end of the SEA Games our country will enjoy better rating. In fact, the Philippines is already being invited to host the 2030 Asian Games,” Tolentino quipped.

After all sports, Tolentino cited, is a major contributor to development of the country. Despite the brouhaha, the SEA Games would hopefully add push to the country’s race for economic growth and development in this part of the world.

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