POC expels arnis, adds four NSAs

THE GAME OF MY LIFE - Bill Velasco - The Philippine Star

The Philippine Olympic Committee General Assembly held Thursday was eventful as it welcomed four new national sports associations and expelled one long-standing member. With 23 voting members and several non-voting members present, the POC went through its usual business, including reports on finances and house-cleaning measures taken by the young administration. Four new NSAs, including sikaran, floorball, tchoukball and surfing were recognized as new POC members. Each was given a chance to make a brief presentation.

World Sikaran is traditional Filipino foot fighting, and traces its roots directly to Baras, Rizal. Sikaran has held international championships for years, and will stage its seventh world championship in Australia in 2022. The presentation included the different variations in style, including one wherein combatants are tied to each other at the waist.

Tchoukball, meanwhile, was designed in Europe over 40 years ago, and has been played in an organized fashion in the Philippines for eight years. The Tchoukball Association of the Philippines, based in Bacolod, has had several national championships, and sends men’s and women’s teams to two international competitions a year. The country has very close relations with its international federation, the FITB in Taiwan. In Southeast Asia, the Philippines is second only to world number two Singapore, but has come close to beating them many times. The country will likely be a wild card entry to the world championships in Malaysia in August of 2019.

The General Assembly also lauded the accomplishments of Filipino athletes over the past month. POC Board member Cynthia Carrion played the video of gymnast Carlos Yulo’s bronze medal-winning floor exercise from the World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Doha earlier this month. Despite being the youngest competitor at 18 years of age, and being the smallest, Yulo impressed the judges, crowd and his fellow gymnasts with his power, flexibility and elevation in his jumps.

Towards the end of the session presided by POC chairman Bambol Tolentino, POC president Ricky Vargas and POC secretary-general Pato Gregorio, it was announced that Arnis Philippines (ARPI), the NSA for Filipino stick fighting, was being expelled from the POC. The POC leadership showed a paper signed by 38 of the committee’s 42 voting members supporting the move. Only International Olympic Committee representative to the Philippines Mikee Cojuangco-Jaworski and three NSAs did not sign. Naturally, this did not sit well with ARPI president Raymond Velayo, who co-founded the association with legendary arnis grandmaster Roland Dantes in the 1980’s.

“We are asking for due process, said Velayo. “We were not informed of this. Who are these people who signed? This is our national sport. Why are we being expelled?”

In 2010, Philippine Sports Commission chairman Harry Angping removed funding from ARPI after it had not been included in the two previous Southeast Asian Games in 2007 and 2009. Arnis has only been included in SEA Games hosted by the Philippines, and has never been a permanent member sport.

“What he is saying is not true,” declared Tolentino. “We gave him a year. They have had due process. The majority of voting members signed.”

“We take due process very seriously,” added Vargas sternly. “That is why we take a long time to make decisions. We follow procedure.”

As of this writing, the SEA Games Federation was still in its final meeting to determine the final list of medal and demonstration sports for the 2019 Philippine SEA Games. Prior to the meeting, 58 sports and over 500 events had been approved, making it most likely the largest SEA Games ever.

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