File photo of athletes from Agutaya town during the opening of Palarong Panlalawigan 2023 in Bataraza

[Updated] The seven school divisions in MIMAROPA are backing out from most team events in the forthcoming Palarong Pambansa, conceding that other regions are too strong to compete against.

Maylyn Dilig of the Schools Division Office (SDO) of Palawan said the decision to not hold team events anymore, except for Football, Futsal and Sepak Takraw, was reached during their coordination meeting on March 11.

“The reason is that we need to improve training for team events. Malalakas ang ibang regions—ang ibang delegations, kasi established na magagaling sa team events,” she said.

She said that the schools divisions decided instead to just compete in individual events.

“Purely individual events as agreed by MIMAROPA divisions. Dahil ang lahat ng MIMAROPA divisions ay magco-contend lang for the individual event. Ang team events ay hanggang panlalawigan muna,” she said.

She said that local athletes in the team events have been informed that they will not be competing at the regional level even before the Palarong Panlalawigan.

The winners from the nine individual events, including Arnis, badminton, billiards, boxing, chess, table tennis, Taekwondo, Sepak Takraw, and Wushu in the ongoing Palarong Panlalawigan, will represent the Palawan delegation. 

It will be an addition to the first three measurable events, swimming, archery, and athletics, which were initially conducted prior to the opening ceremony on May 7.

The Palawan delegation will be composed of 240 athletes and around 40 coaches and officials. The delegates will be transferred to Romblon via air transportation.

“Partly (reason ang break during pandemic), pero kung titingnan natin since by club ang events ngayon, doon tayo sa kung saan ang strength ng delegation,” she added.

For this year’s sports event, instead of filling all the sports events, the school district decided to send their formed clubs to events of their expertise and strength. Prior to participating in sports events, clubs must receive accreditation from the Department of Education’s (DepEd) central office.

Dilig cannot say yet if the province will be ready for the team events in 2024, but she expressed hope, particularly for the football team. Events coaches are more capable of analyzing the preparedness of athletes, she added.

A total of P20 million from the Special Education Fund (SEF) will be allotted to support the Palarong Panlalawigan, MIMAROPARAA Meet, and Palarong Pambansa. The province-wide sports events that recently opened on May 7 have a budget of P7 million for needs like equipment, uniforms, and food.

She clarified that it is not budget insufficiency that leads to the decision but the preparedness of the athletes to compete with the other regions’ strong teams.

“No prob sa budget kasi pwede rin i-allocate beforehand. But we are preparing and hopeful that eventually, we will be ready for team events,” she said.

Meanwhile, the Palawan SDO assured that minimum health protocols are still being implemented in observance of the existing COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing Palarong Panlalawigan.