Time for a new sports complex
THE GAME OF MY LIFE - Bill Velasco (The Philippine Star) - November 3, 2014 - 12:00am

Members of the House of Representatives are working with the Philippine Olympic Committee to hasten the acquisition of property and build a permanent new training facility for Philippine national athletes. It will most likely be built in the former Clark air base in Pampanga, where the national gpvernment has access to vast tracts of land. Hopefully, it will take place sooner than later.

According to former Pampanga Vice-Governor and now First District Rep. Yeng Guiao, vice-chairman of the Committee on Youth and Sports Development in the Lower House, it is possible for the Clark International Airport Corporation (CIAC) to allocate 40 to 50 hectares for the long-term use of the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) for elite athlete training and other programs. Clark is located within Guiao’s district, and is well-suited for the purpose, unlike the archaic Rizal Memorial Sports Complex, which is in the middle of a heavily urbanized area with problems like traffic, pollution and lack of room for the growing needs of more and more national sports teams.

“It’s a good place to build a new sports facility,” added Guiao, who is also the head coach of the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters in the PBA. “You have all the space, there’s fresh air, less distractions, and you’re less than an hour away from Manila. We hope to get this moving soon.”

As for the huge funds needed to actually build on the proposed site, there are several possible options. One is to build gradually through the General Appropriations Act, which could seed initial funds and add annually. Another is through private sponsors who would be interested in the naming rights of each of the buildings to be constructed. Another source could be the National Sports Development Fund, which allocates five percent of the earnings of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation’s (Pagcor) earnings to the Philippine Sports Commission. Proper protocols must be observed, however, as funds going to any government agency may by law have to be remitted to the national treasury. Yet another possible source could be through funds of the Office of the President. Foreign grants could also be acquired to start the project. Of course, the disbursement of the funds should be monitored by the appropriate arm of the national government.

Another suggestion is to sell the property on which Rizal Memorial Sports Complex sits, considering it is prime real estate at the edge of Manila near Pasay City. Apparently, the property is owned by the national government, and was placed under the stewardship of the city, and was allocated for the use of Project Gintong Alay, which was transformed by law into the Philippine Sports Commission in 1990. There could be some form of revenue sharing formulated among the parties involved. The funds generated by the sake would not be enough, but may be used to start construction of a central office building, and possibly a track oval and quarters for the athletes.

Rizal Memorial was built even before the Philippines became a republic, and has been overtaken by congestion and other problems. There is no space to accommodate all the member sports of the POC and house all the athletes under the charge of the PSC. It would cost as much as building a new complex to renovate both RMSC and PhilSports, and it would be impossible to expand. The same problems of traffic, distractions and other issues would still prevail. In many other competitive sports countries, training facilities are always far removed from urban centers. Technology has also changed immensely in the last three decades alone. A new sports complex would be a great boost to international campaigns and the grassroots development programs of our athletes. It would also give the Philippines the impetus to host events like the Asian Games and the Southeast Asian Games with a venue at par with our Asian neighbors, something we could be proud of.

The committee, chaired by the defunct Metropolitan Basketball Association’s Davao Eagles team owner and now Davao Del Norte First District Rep. Anthony del Rosario, will call all the stakeholders to clarify possible plans for the new sports complex. Philippine Olympic Committee president Peping Cojuangco initially suggested Clark as a viable venue for the new sports complex, and it may be the best option so as not to tax the national government’s budget in procuring the massive property needed.

Although there are other sports facilities around the country, (Tarlac, Pangasinan, Laguna, Lanao del Norte), they are either incomplete, do not have dormitories, are inaccessible, or would be difficult to hold international multisports competitions in. A plan to build a state-of-the-art sports complex in Davao has likewise not yet pushed through. As of now, Clark looks to be a great choice. It is a developing market away from big-city problems near a highway, there’s no traffic, food is cheaper, it has its own expanding airport, and several schools are being built in the area. National athletes could train in relative peace and quiet, and still have access to good nutrition and travel for competition. Here’s hoping the new site is procured sooner rather than later.

Down the road, a more permanent solution would be the creation of a Department of Sports, which would have its own budget and personnel, as of now, the PSC is limited by what it is given by Congress, the Office of the President, and sponsors. There have been attempts at a Department of Sports law in the past, but the pending legislations had features that could not be implemented for economic or political reasons. Now, there are parallel efforts in both houses to select and consolidate the more palatable clauses of all past sports bills into one all-encompassing law. But it will definitely not happen in this administration.

ASIAN GAMES AND THE SOUTHEAST ASIAN GAMES CLARK INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT CORPORATION COMPLEX DEPARTMENT OF SPORTS NATIONAL OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT PHILIPPINE OLYMPIC COMMITTEE PHILIPPINE SPORTS COMMISSION RIZAL MEMORIAL SPORTS COMPLEX SPORTS
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