Solons donate P1.4 M to dragon boat champions
MANILA, Philippines—The 20-member Philippine Dragon Boat Federation team that won five gold and two silver medals in the 10th World Dragon Boat Racing Championships in Florida will receive P1.4 million cash from all 285 members of the House of Representatives.
The reward, to be used for their training and development, was approved at the House plenary session following a privilege speech on Wednesday night by Isabela Representative Rodolfo Albano, who tabled a motion for his colleagues to contribute P5,000 each to be deducted from their next paycheck.
The motion was endorsed by Manila Representative Amado Bagatsing, chairman of the House committee on games and amusement, and was unanimously approved by the body.
Albano said that many Filipinos were saddened to learn about the hardships of the team members had to go through to compete in the races, where their fame had preceded them.
He said the dragon boat team members had to sell plastic bottles and other recyclable materials just to be able to raise money to sustain their training.
“Nangunguha sila ng tahong sa Manila Bay at iniihaw ito para makain habang sila ay nagte-training,” Albano said in his speech.
He pointed out that only the Asia Brewery’s Cobra Energy and Philippine Airlines and some individuals provided for the team’s financial needs to cover plane fare and accommodations while in Florida.
“What is pathetic was that our PDBF team, upon reaching Florida, had to beg, literally, for rice, water and kitchen utensils from our fellow Filipinos in the area,” Albano said. “Fortunately our Filipino compatriots there responded and supplied them with food and water, they even pooled their resources and gave allowances to the team members.”
Albano said that all of the team’s hardships were caused by the absence of support and recognition from the government, particularly the Philippine Olympic Committee.
“This glaring absence of support from the Philippine Olympic Committee and the Philippine Sports Commission drew quick criticisms and condemnation from the public,” he said.
Albano said several quarters have asked for the resignation of Philippine Amateur Track and Field President Go Teng Kok, POC President Jose Cojuangco and PSC Chairman Richie Garcia for their failure to support the team.
He said there were also mounting calls for a congressional inquiry into the refusal by the PSC and POC to acknowledge the paddlers as a national team.
Reports said that in 2010, the POC asked the PDBF members to undergo time trials as a condition for the team’s participation in the Guangzhou Asian Games.
“But when the team broke existing winning times set in Asian championships, retired Colonel Jeff Tamayo, POC chief representative at the trials in La Mesa Dam, however, doubted the results of the trial as the paddlers were incredibly fast,” the lawmaker pointed out.
Another example of non-support of sports officials, Albano said, was when Cojuangco came out with a statement that the dragon boat now belongs to canoeing while Garcia said the PDBF was still a member but it will function under canoe-kayak.
Albano said Garcia even cited an International Olympic Committee memorandum which states that the dragon boat event was under the discipline of Canoe-Kayak.
Albano then called for a congressional inquiry to further expose the hardships endured by the members of the team after they were refused financial support and recognition as national athletes.
“I also believe that an inquiry can lead to the passage of remedial legislation to correct the improper treatment of our athletes, especially unsung heroes like members of the PDBF who have been reaping medals over the years for the honor of our country,” Albano said.
He said that POC and PSC officials should be questioned on the issue especially now that they are scheduled to appear for the budget hearings.
The dragon boat men’s team won two world dragon boat championships in 2007 and 2009, and the mixed team was named world champions in 2009. The men’s team is composed mainly of retired members of the Philippine Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and some civilians. The world championship event was participated in by 50 teams from 18 countries.