The Philippine Olympic Committee’s special incentive trust fund for Filipino medalist athletes is a timely development.
It comes at at time when Filipino athletes, especially women, are shining brightly in international competitions in weightlifting, karate and most recently in football where the Philippine national football team, collectively known as the Filipinas, reigned supreme for the first time in the Asean Football Championship.
The POC’s project is a timely endeavor that must be pushed and supported by both the government and the private sector,
especially on the heels of the news that former athletics icon, Lydia De Vega Mercado, is in critical condition due to bout with Stage 4 cancer.
Her family is pleading for financial assistance.
It’s good to note though that the government has an agency, the Philippine Sports Commission, that takes care of the athletes’
needs in and out of the playing field.
And we have a president who listens and acts decisively.
When informed by PSC Officer-In-Charge and Executive Director Atty. Guillermo Iroy, Jr., President Bongbong Marcos instructed him to extend all possible assistance to the family of Mercado, a many-time sprint queen of Asia and multi-titled medalist in the the Southeast Asian
Games from 1981 to 1993.
It’s interesting to note that Mercado, fondly called Diay, in the the sporting world, was a product of Project Gintong Alay during the time of President Ferdinand Marcos Sr., that started in 1979.
In August last year, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 1988 Seoul Olympic bronze medalist Leopoldo Serrantes succumbed to a lingering pulmonary illness at the Veterans Memorial Hospital. He did not live in comfort but he died, aged 59. in his children’s embrace.
Too bad , the “National Athletes and Coaches Benefits and Incentives Act” was not yet a law when Mercado and Serrantes were winning medals and reaping honors for the country during their heydays.
The “incentives” law (RA 10699) was an expanded version of the approved benefits for athletes on April 5, 2001. It mandates the government to provide financial rewards for the victorious athletes and coaches.
Before the law was enacted, most Filipino sports heroes whose glories have faded after their exploits that elicited raves and recognition, have sunk to oblivion and were only remembered when they die, but not after living a life in abject poverty.
Since the law was passed, the PSC has effectively taken the role of a doting mother to athletes—active and retired—in need.
But still not enough to really provide lifelong comfort for our national athletes who have devoted their youth to representing the country’s flag in the international scene.
Now the POC has taken the lead in complementing the PSC’s efforts to provide comfortable life for our athletes and the private sector is beginning to take notice.
The MVP Group and San Miguel Corporation have committed to support the trust fund. We hope that more companies will join in growing and sustaining this first-of-its-kind project in Philippine sports.
They say sports transcends life.
In a country that is always hungry for heroes to look up to and in a country that is engaged in a never-ending battle against drugs, sports will always play an important role in molding the next generation as more responsible citizens.