"SPORTS have the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire, the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks of youth in a language they understand." Nelson Mandela
There must be more learned and politically savvy noblemen and noblewomen in this country who can answer this question - why don't we have a Department of Sports today? We have experienced, in a far and in between pattern, the immense pride and patriotism which can be credited to our great athletes whenever they excel in their respective sports.
With some of the elite names and the popular era they belong to, it is easy to theorize that someone must have been doing something right to record such a testament of crowning glory - Asia's and world's best - in yesteryears.
Acknowledging this, we did have a Ministry of Youth and Sports Development created by the late President Ferdinand E Marcos in 1974 under Presidential Decree 604. Within this Ministry was Project - Gintong Alay, a remarkable well rounded training program that produced top class athletes like track stars Lydia de Vega, Isidro del Prado, Elma Muros, swimmers like Akiko Thomson and Eric Buhain, and bowlers like Bong Coo and Paeng Nepomuceno, among others.
Guess who was the Minister of Sports then? You guess right - His Honor, Ferdinand E Marcos himself! He was determined to see the development of sports in the Philippines and ensured that the Ministry is well respected and supported. Commanding Project Gintong Alay was his favorite nephewMichael Keon who knew the ropes in sports development with prior training with his stint in sports loving Australia. Mike Keon is current Mayor of Laoag City and previous Governor too of Ilocos Norte.
The point I am trying to prove is we need to elevate our present sports agency, Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) to a full fledge Department. The present hardworking men and women under Chairman William "Butch" Ramirez, in the current PSC, can only do so much. It needs its own mandate and powers to perform in the farcical layers of bureaucracy and red tape in government.
The proposed Department of Sports, which may include Youth, has to work with various national sports associations (NSA) through the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC). Recognizing the fact that politicians and corporate heavyweights are in these sports organizations, we need to buttress our national sports development to the cabinet level - to level the playing field, so to speak..
Countries enjoying sporting glory with an efficient Ministry of Sports are Australia, Japan, Korea and nearer home Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam - all Southeast Asia's power houses. Many are not stand alone sports ministry. Some are pooled with education, culture, youth or tourism.
The Philippine Department of Sports of the Marcos era went out with him and for decades thereafter, it was surmised that the politician laden POC became the main decision maker of all sports matters with the PSC sadly functioning as a clearing house of their programs, mostly unsuccessful.
In recent years, we saw a drastic change in the POC leadership and most satisfying is the revamp of the PSC under its present chairmanship of Butch Ramirez who is the living breath of sports upliftment in the Philippines today. The POC, with Abraham Tolentino at its helm, is also on the right path in managing the NSAs and promoting what is mandated in their bylaws.
In 2016 former Congressman Karlo Nograles now Cabinet Secretary filed House Bill 6440 or the Department of Sports Act in Congress. I understand another member of the current House of Representatives, Chiqui Roa Puno from Antipolo, Rizal has again filed another bill (No. 3633) in the present session to create the Department of Sports.
Congresswoman Roa Puno is also currently the vice chair on the Committee on Youth and Sports. In submitting the bill, she said, "Sports is not just an instrument to hone champion athletes, it also has the power to teach the youth the values of self discipline, fair play and team work."
We need Secretary Nograles to rekindle his passion to support this bill. In the Senate, we look at sporting Senator Christopher "Bong" Go as head of the committee on sports and the iconic Senator Manny Pacquiao to prop up the bill and may I call on all sports loving Filipino to rally behind it.
The time is now. Without doubt we have the most qualified Secretary of Sports to-be in the honorable Butch Ramirez. He has the experience and has proven his capability and worth to fulfill our aspirations for Philippines sports.
Charles Lim is the founder and chairman of the Philippine Sports Tourism Awards. He has been an advocate of sports tourism since 2004 with the inception of the Sports Tourism Forum - a popular seminar workshop for those in the sports and the hospitality industry - which is presently still ongoing. He can be reached at email@example.com.