Villanueva: Grass roots approach in sports needed to tap PH’s wealth of talent, drive for first Olympic gold

The victories of gymnast Carlos Yulo and boxer Nesthy Petecio over the weekend highlight the need for a grass roots approach in developing Filipino athletes which can be addressed by legislation pending in the Upper Chamber, according to Senator Joel Villanueva.

In a statement, Villanueva explained that institutionalizing sports varsity teams in basic education and putting up the Philippine High School for Sports--proposals contained in Senate Bill Nos. 157 and 1086, respectively--should be the long-term solution in improving the performance of the country in international competitions.

"There is no talent shortage in our country when it comes to sports, as shown by Carlos and Nesthy in their respective events over the weekend," said Villanueva, chair of the Senate Committee on Higher, Technical, and Vocational Education. "Talent is scattered everywhere in our 7,000 islands, and it is up to us in government to be able to find these people and cultivate their skills so they can carry on with our quest to deliver the country's first Olympic gold in over 90 years since we first competed in the Games."

"We believe that our talent bench runs deep. We are blessed with the wealth of talent," he continued. "But the lack of organization in the grass roots level prevents our national sports associations from getting the athletes who can be trained to compete in the long term."

Villanueva, who is also vice chair of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts, and Culture, filed Senate Bill No. 157 which seeks to put into motion the necessity of organizing sports varsity teams in basic education institutions.

The Department of Education (DepEd) will play a critical role in the success of Senate Bill No. 157 or the Sports Varsity Teams in Basic Education Act should the measure hurdle the legislative mill and be enacted into law, said Villanueva, who once suited up for the country's Under-19 team that competed in the inaugural Southeast Asia Basketball Association championships in 1994.

The proposed bill, which is on first reading and pending before the Senate basic education committee, tasks the education department to create a sports varsity selection and admission system to identify potential athletes, as well as a mechanism to train and recognize varsity coaches who will, in turn, manage varsity teams in schools.

On the other hand, Villanueva joined his colleagues in pushing for Senate Bill No. 1086, which seeks to create the Philippine High School for Sports, an institution that will raise the quality of our young athletes which will make them competitive in the world stage.

"We will see to it that the proposed measure will live up to the dreams of our young athletes of having a specialized school that trains our future champions," said the senator, a co-author of the bill which is up for interpellation.

Yulo copped the country's first gold medal in the International Gymnastics Federation's World Gymnastics Championships in Germany on Oct. 12. The following day, Petecio eked out a split decision to top the featherweight division of the 2019 AIBA Women's World Boxing Championships in Russia.

Source: Senate of the Philippines