A senior official from the Department of Education recently remarked that future provincial games, where Palawan athletes are selected to compete in the regional level games, will be held with participating athletes limited only to those who have medal potentials.

Dr. Natividad Bayubay, OIC superintendent, said at the conclusion of this year’s provincial qualifiers held in Bataraza: “Next time baka lima na ang ang dadalahin ng isang team. Handful lang ang pwedeng dalhin kasi sila naman ang potential for gold. Para maibigay natin ang quality service that we can give. Hindi natin sila dapat gipitin kasi it would compromise their security, food and all that.”

The official’s statement has caught the attention of members of the provincial board, apparently piqued at the remark, and promptly issued an invitation to the official to appear at a session and explain her controversial pronouncement.

It is important to understand the context of the statement made by the DepEd official before she gets grilled at the Capitol for her remakrs. She had been asked a question based on news accounts about the difficulties faced by provincial athletes during the games. One photo, that of athletes from one municipality being hauled into the games cramped in what looked like a dump truck, became viral with angry netizens lashing at the games’ organizers and local officials.

Bayubay justifies her statement by saying that DepEd’s intention is to maximize whatever budget they have for the athletic meet and thus provide quality support to fewer but pre-selected athletes. Better uniforms and better accommodations, she said.

Those directly involved in local sports development are fully aware of the limited funding in the DepEd’s sports program. The common scenario at city and town level athletic meets is that of local athletes having to raise their own funds for their basic needs and even training. While local government units appropriate funds for their athletic delegations, these are often inadequate and parents in many cases have to spend for their children to fill in the financing gap.

To be sure, some local governments have been more receptive to their athletes and they make sure to provide adequate support to their delegations, not only during the actual competitions but more importantly in the training of their athletes. As a result, they perform better than other delegations.

We should admit the reality that Palawan does not belong to this exception, as far as athletic funding is concerned. The coaches and the athletes themselves will attest to this.

Our policymakers should look at the province’s sports development program holistically and not limit its focus on how inadequate are the preparations in the holding of the week-long provincial games.

It takes vision and purpose to attain medals in any competitive sports. The important foundation lies on the training and motivation of athletes. Gold medalists are not born different from normal people that the DepEd and athletic organizers can simply collect and send to battle. Athletes with raw potentials need to be trained properly and provided with adequate support before they can be expected to deliver medals.

The notion raised by DepEd to limit the number of participants in the provincial meets is doomed to fail, in the absence of a solid athletic development program that will scout and train the potential athletes, to begin with.

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