When it rains, it pours
Joaquin Henson (The Philippine Star) - December 16, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — During his stay as POC president, Ricky Vargas put together a P76-million war chest that became the foundation of a first-ever incentive program that the organization, now under Rep. Abraham Tolentino, is rolling out for Filipino medalists in the just-concluded Southeast Asian Games.

Tolentino took it a notch higher when he approached businessman Dennis Uy and fellow House of Representatives members to bolster the kitty. Uy contributed P15 million and after passing the hat around, Tolentino got an additional P6 million from his colleagues in Congress. POC will give out P52.8 million in bonuses to Filipino athletes starting with the gold medalists after the General Assembly meeting tomorrow morning at Conrad Hotel. Silver and bronze medalists will receive their share on Thursday and Friday in Tolentino’s office at POC.

It’s a first in POC history that incentives will be awarded to SEA Games medalists. Among the athletes who delivered 149 gold medals for the Philippines were three winners from the Integrated Cycling Federation of the Philippines which Tolentino heads – Lea Belgira in women’s mountain bike downhill, John Frederick Farr in men’s mountain bike downhill and Jermyn Prado in women’s individual time trial.

Vargas brought in P50 million from San Miguel Corp., P20 million from the MVP Sports Foundation and P6 million from the PBA to fortify POC’s coffers after he was elected POC president in February 2018. It allowed POC to pay out cash incentives amounting to P13.5 million for the first time ever to the country’s Asian Games medalists in 2018.  The total included P2 million each for the Philippines’ four gold medals. That got the ball rolling all the way to this year’s SEA Games. Vargas resigned last June to pave the way for new elections where Tolentino was voted president.

As ABAP president, Vargas accounted for seven gold medals from boxing in the SEA Games with lightflyweight Carlo Paalam, flyweight Rogen Ladon, lightwelterweight James Palicte, lightweight Charly Suarez and middleweight Eumir Marcial hitting paydirt in the men’s division and lightflyweight Josie Gabuco and featherweight Nesthy Petecio finishing first in the women’s division.

For an individual Filipino gold medalist in the SEA Games, the total bonus will amount to P750,000 – P300,000 from PSC, P250,000 from President Duterte and P200,000 from POC.

“Our athletes truly deserve all the accolades and rewards,” said Vargas. “They sacrificed, worked tirelessly and gave their all. They raised our flag high and made our country and people proud. We first gave out incentives for Filipino medalists in last year’s Asian Games with help from San Miguel Corp., MVP Sports Foundation and the PBA. I’m happy that POC president Cong. Bambol decided to continue the practice. Perhaps, now, other private individuals and entities will see the value in helping out Philippine sports. Not only in rewarding performance but also in supporting their journey when it is most needed. On to the Olympics!”

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