Philippine sports need more investments

By Manila 3rd District Rep. Joel Chua
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Think of sports as an economic sector in need of investments in human capital and equipment. As a member of the House Committee on Economic Affairs, I call for investment reforms targeting Philippine basketball and the whole sports sector. Investment reforms are the biggest and most crucial missing pieces in the sports sector roadmaps.

I commend the ongoing efforts of Gilas Pilipinas, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas, the Philippine Olympic Committee, and all the other sports groups. They are doing the unenviable and herculean tasks needed in Philippine sports. Their plans and programs need the super boost and upsizing that only massive investments can produce.

I am especially concerned, for example, that our basketball athletes — especially at the school level and community leagues — are not familiar with how to play the current modern international style of play deeply familiar to the Lithuanians, Spaniards, French and other Europeans.

Investments are the most potent solution to the lack of awareness and familiarity about how to play international basketball.

The Philippine Sports Commission needs long-term private investors as partners. Some of the National Sports Associations and leagues are on the right path, but they also need new investments in sports human capital.

Here are the specific steps I suggest to the concerned agencies:

To the National Economic and Development Authority, I appeal that they recognize, promote, and support the sports economy. The Philippine Development Plan mentions sports only five times in its human resource chapter, and none of those five times are about sports as human capital, investment, or economic activities. In the trade and investment chapter, there is zero mention of sports as an economic or investment sector.

To the Board of Investments, I ask that they do more than just grant incentives to and promote investments in the manufacturing of sports equipment, apparel, and supplies. We need a local industry that massively produces the major components of the sports sector value chain, including the athletes from the grassroots up.

To the Philippine Economic Zone Authority and freeports, we need ecozones and investment locators that specialize in providing the services and facilities needed for the training of athletes sent abroad to compete.

To the Department of Migrant Workers, Filipino athletes who are extended training overseas should be formally recognized as overseas Filipino workers because their training is their work, and they do almost all their training abroad.

To the Department of Finance, I say we need policies that promote investments in sports as human capital, that invite more companies engaged in the sports economy to register with the Securities and Exchange Commission as businesses.

There has long been talk of players’ salaries, coaches’ salaries, trainers’ salaries and the lack of basic sports gear and equipment. Donations and CSR projects are not sustainable. Investment programs are sustainable.

I suggest the path to lifting salary caps should start sooner rather than later. Since lifting salary caps involves investments, new investments in the leagues and teams are needed. This can be done by inviting foreign and local investors to introduce new teams and partner with existing teams. These new investments will grow the leagues.

New sports leagues must be developed. This effort needs investments in human capital.

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