Senator Christopher “Bong” Go, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Sports and vice chair of the Senate Finance Committee, emphasized the importance of supporting the country’s sports sector given its crucial role towards nation building, as well as in keeping the youth away from illegal drugs and in promoting a healthy lifestyle.
During the plenary debates for the 2024 budget of the Philippines Sports Commission (PSC) and the Games and Amusement Board (GAB) on Wednesday, November 15, Go stressed the need to support athletes competing in international competitions while also promoting grassroots sports development to hone and give opportunities for promising young athletes. He also highlighted the need to invest and improve sports facilities nationwide.
In his opening statement, Go outlined the budgetary allocations for PSC and GAB for Fiscal Year 2024. He highlighted the proposed increases in their allocations. Go is pushing for at least an additional P500 million in the budget of PSC. This proposed substantial increase is for grassroots sports programs, improvements in sports facilities, and support for athletes competing in international sports events like the 2024 Paris Olympics and the Winter Youth Olympics.
Go also highlighted the budget for rehabilitation and upgrading the PhilSports Complex in Pasig City as well as for the Rizal Memorial Coliseum in Manila City. He pointed out the significance of this investment, noting that the facilities are crucial in the training and competitions of national athletes. These improvements are also aimed at enhancing the capabilities and living conditions of athletes using these facilities.
Go also explained the dire state of sports funding in the Philippines. He thanked the Committee on Finance particularly its chairperson, Sen. Sonny Angara, for the support in continuously increasing the national budget for sports programs.
However, he emphasized a concerning trend, “Napapansin ko po masyado tayong naka-asa sa National Sports Development Fund na karamihan galing sa PAGCOR.”
He highlighted the perennial issue of sports being underfunded in the National Expenditure Program (NEP) year after year, necessitating legislators to step in annually to augment the budget.
“Every year, tayo pa po ang nagdadagdag ng budget dito sa Senado sa committee report,” he lamented.
Go then delved into the historical context, illustrating the consistent shortfall in sports funding over the years. He noted, “In 2022, we added P550 million; and in 2021, we added P1.1 billion.”
He expressed concern over the minuscule percentage of the national budget allocated to sports, “For 2024, only P174 million was approved by the DBM, kahit na po ang kanilang proposed budget is more than P3 billion.”
Go passionately argued for better funding, highlighting the high expectations placed on athletes and the national pride they bring home when they triumph in international arenas. “Kapag nanalo sila damay ang buong bansa sa honor na dala ng ating mga atleta. Kapag natalo naman sila, minsan na-babash pa sila,” said Go.
The budget hearing also revealed challenges in the funding of the PSC. Go pointed out the historical underfunding of sports from the national budget, with only a minuscule percentage being allocated to sports development.
He emphasized, “In fact, for 2024, only P174 million was approved by the DBM, kahit na po ang kanilang proposed budget is more than P3 billion.” “Ang parating (proposed budget sa NEP) is less than P200 million for two consecutive years. Ibig sabihin nito, only 0.004% of the P5.768 trillion of the national budget. And yet, Mr. President, we expect our athletes to perform in international competitions,” he added.
Go acknowledged this gap, emphasizing the need for the PSC to work closely with the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to bridge these discrepancies between their needed budget and what is only proposed in the National Expenditure Program year after year.
Go also delved deeper into the critical impact of funding on national pride and sports tourism. He pointed to the recent successes in international competitions as evidence of the potential of Philippine athletes when adequately supported.
“Nakita naman natin, Mr. President, na kung susuportahan natin ang ating mga atleta, malaking tulong ito sa kanila at makakapagbigay sila ng honor sa ating bansa,” he asserted.
A significant part of the discussion also centered around the support for Filipino athletes, especially those participating in international competitions. Senators expressed concern about the potential loss of Filipino talent to other countries, citing examples like Jaja Santiago and Yuka Saso.
They questioned the strategies in place to retain and support these athletes. Go affirmed that the PSC and the respective National Sports Associations (NSAs) are primarily responsible for handling the athletes. He mentioned the financial support provided to these bodies, partly from the GAA and partly from funds sourced through the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR).
The discussion also underscored the impact of sports on national pride and the economy. Go specifically highlighted the achievements at the 2023 FIBA World Cup, emphasizing its role in enhancing tourism and national morale amid pandemic recovery efforts. He celebrated the Philippines’ victory against China in the last game, which he saw as a pivotal moment leading to the country’s first gold in men’s basketball at the Asian Games in over six decades.
“We beat China twice – FIBA and Asian Games,” he proudly remarked. He stated, “Nakita naman natin, Mr. President, na kung susuportahan natin ang ating mga atleta, malaking tulong ito sa kanila at makakapagbigay sila ng honor sa ating bansa.”
Looking ahead to 2024, Go hopes that it will be a banner year for Philippine sports, with hopes for continued success in international competitions and further development of sports facilities and programs.