Senator Christopher “Bong” Go, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Sports, emphasized the need to invest in sports programs given its crucial role in nation-building. He appealed to the Department of Budget and Management to give importance to sports as he questioned the measly allocation year after year during the Senate plenary discussions on the 2024 budget on Wednesday, November 8.
As Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Finance, Go underscored the disparity between the proposed budget for the Philippine Sports Commission for example, compared to the overall appropriations for the whole national government budget. He explained that despite PSC’s request for P3 billion, DBM approved only P174 million for 2024, a mere 0.004% of the national budget.
Go further questioned the reason behind such a low allocation considering the significant role of sports in nation-building and the high expectations placed on Filipino athletes in international competitions.
“Napapansin ko lang po, kapag nagsusubmit sila sa DBM ng P3 billion, pagdating sa Committee (on Finance), sasabihin sa amin, less than P200 million lang ang na-approve. Umaasa po sila sana madagdagan po ang kanilang pondo,” said Go.
Go emphasized the success of hosting the 2023 FIBA (International Basketball Federation) World Cup, which not only promoted the Philippines internationally but also demonstrated the benefits of staging well-organized sporting events. He stressed the government’s lack of support for athletes, who often face public backlash when they fail to win, despite the inadequate funding they receive.
The senator also pointed out that the National Sports Development Fund, primarily sourced from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR), remains insufficient for the needs of the athletes and the rehabilitation of aging sports facilities, like the Rizal Memorial Complex.
However, he praised Senate Committee on Finance Chairperson Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara, for consistently supporting increased sports funding and expressed hope for the DBM to prioritize sports in future budgets.
Angara acknowledged Go’s strong advocacy for the sports sector and his deep understanding of its challenges. He noted the difficulty in increasing the sports budget due to competing demands from other agencies and the limited growth in the national expenditure program year on year.
“I think the PSC is lucky to have you as a very strong advocate. Not only are you the chair of the Subcommittee of the Committee on Finance handling PSC, but you’re also the Chairman of the Committee on Sports. So talagang naiintindihan ninyo ang problema ng sektor. From a few sports associations, it really increased. I think there are 80 or 70 sports associations which need support. So we thank you for the good work you’re doing,” Angara said.
“Sa DBM kasi talaga medyo nahihirapan din sila dahil sa dami ng hinihingi ng ibang ahensya rin. So they have to work from the NEP of the previous year. Kung meron silang increase, they’re also constrained na minsan hindi ganoon kalaki rin ang nabibigay na increase sa national expenditure program from year to year,” he added.
Go then reiterated the need to continuously further enhance government support for sports, which he believes should be prioritized given the honor and pride athletes bring to the country and its role in molding the youth into productive and disciplined individuals.
“Kulang talaga ang suporta mula sa gobyerno. Sabi ko nga, 0.004% ang ina-allocate na budget sa kanila. Parati nilang inaasa sa Kongreso ang karagdagang suporta,” he lamented.
“Ine-expect nga natin sa mga atleta natin na makapagbigay ng honor sa atin. ‘Di po ‘yun nabibigyan ng halaga masyado sa ating budget. Mas marami pang nauuna na hindi gaano ka importante. Dapat bigyan po natin ng importansya ang ating atleta na nagbibigay ng honor sa ating bansa,” added Go.
The senator also noted that sports serve as a deterrent to illegal drug use among the youth, in line with the ongoing campaign for drug prevention.
Angara responded to Go’s advocacy with strong agreement, highlighting the unifying power of sports in the Philippines. Angara pointed out the pride and honor that sporting successes bring to the nation, acknowledging the positive outcomes even from minimal investment.
Meanwhile, Senator Pia Cayetano supported Go’s statements, stressing the value of sports in nation-building and the potential impact on youth development. She emphasized the importance of tracking the benefits of sports engagement in preventing drug addiction and fostering national unity, as evidenced during international competitions.
“Sa research na ginagawa natin, sana may nagta-track ng ilan sa kabataan ang hindi na papasok sa landas ng droga o pamamalagi sa kanto dahil naging atleta sila. At ilan ang nagkakaisa tuwing may FIBA game na puno ang lahat ng Coliseum? Ibig sabihin, ito’y pagtatayo ng bansa, at iyon ay may halaga. Kaya dapat ito’y pahalagahan,” she said.
Cayetano also highlighted the efforts of Go in supporting sports, stating, “Gusto ko lang idagdag ito dahil ang chairman ay gumagawa ng paraan para matugunan ang mga rekomendasyong ginagawa natin para sa palakasan dahil suportado niya ito.”
“Sana, kung sino man ang susunod na chairman, kapag nagtapos na siya, sana ay ganun din ang suportang ibibigay. Kaya kailangan kong ilagay ito dito para kapag nagtapos na siya, masasabi ko na paninindigan din ng susunod na chairman ang ganung klase ng suporta sa palakasan dahil ano ang halaga nun? Hindi lang ito tungkol sa ginto, kundi sa pagbubuo ng bansa na kasama sa lahat ng iyon. Kailangan ko itong idagdag,” she added.
Go has consistently advocated for an increase in funding for the country’s sports programs. It can be recalled that last year’s proposed budget for the PSC was approximately P200 million. However, Go along with fellow senators, pushed for an additional P1 billion, which significantly enhanced the financial support for athletes in international competitions.
This move paved the way for the provision of financial support for athletes participating in international competitions, including the recent 2023 Southeast Asian Games in Cambodia and the Asian Games in China.
In line with this, he highlighted his role as the author and co-sponsor of Republic Act 11470, which established the National Academy of Sports (NAS) in New Clark City, Capas, Tarlac.
Additionally, Go filed Senate Bill No. 423, or the Philippine National Games (PNG) Act, to institutionalize a national platform for athletes, especially the youth, to showcase their talents.