THE Department of Education (DepEd) and the provincial government of Albay are making sure that they will deliver a well-managed and professionally-run sporting meet for the 18 regions after both parties signed an agreement for the 2016 Palarong Pambansa on April 10 to 16.

This will be the first time that the event will be held in Albay and also the first to have 18 regions after the addition of Negros Island Region.

The Negros Island Region comprises the provinces of Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental, which were previously part of Western and Central Visayas, respectively.

Meanwhile, Region 7 is on the verge on forming their delegation for the annual meet as the qualifying event—2016 Central Visayas Athletic Association—kicks off this Sunday at the Naga City Sports Complex in Naga City.

Thousands of student-athletes will be in Naga City on Feb. 7 to 13 to represent their provinces and cities and vie for a slot in the 2016 Palarong Pambansa. These athletes will be staying in billeting centers in Naga City, San Fernando and Minglanilla.

DepEd Secretary Armin Luistro said this year’s Palarong Pambansa will follow the specific provisions of Republic Act 10588, which is known as the Palarong Pambansa Act of 2013.

“We are institutionalizing this sports program to ensure that we are developing athletes that are of international caliber,” Luistro told the Official Gazette of the Republic of the Philippines. “Together with the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) and the provincial government of Albay, DepEd will see to it that the standards are at international level and that the coaching staff, the technical officials as well as the playing venues conform to international standards.”

For this year, the elementary level will have 15 events, while the secondary level will have 17. There will be four demo sports: futsal, wushu, billiards and wrestling. Aside from that, four special games will be conducted for the special athletes.

Albay Governor Joey Salceda said that as host, they want to stage a joyful Palaro because it is something that celebrates the spirit of national unity.