The national athletes should be taken care of like jewels, even long after they had served the country well by providing inspiration to millions of Filipinos through their exploits in the international sports arena.
Kind-hearted souls and generous patrons provide help for those athletes who have become destitute after retirement, or those who fell by sickness due to old age.
Helping our retired national athletes should not come in the form of an endowment, not just an act of someone’s generosity.
Financial assistance in whatever form should be provided because national athletes deserve it and it’s part of the package when they chose to serve the country through sports.
The government agency for sports, Philippine Sports Commission, could only do so much. By law, they are bound to provide financial aid for the burial expenses of former national athletes and coaches.
It may or may not provide continuous assistance in case of hospitalization depending on the resolution by the current board of commissioners, which changes every six years as co-terminous with the president.
Under Article 10699 or the expanded Sports Benefits of 2001, any national athlete and coach who wins in an international competition or has coached such winning national athlete “shall receive a lump sum amount equivalent to 25 percent of his/her total cash incentives” it received during his active days.
But there are only a few of them.
Up to now, there’s no law guaranteeing the financial stability of retired athletes or coaches.
It is heart-warming though that there are small steps being taken to at least help our former athletes and coaches in need.
In the absence of that law, PSC Chairman Noli Eala said he will push for a pension plan as an incentive for national athletes.
House Speaker Martin Romualdez earlier also pushed for a pension system for national athletes after the death of athletics legend Lydia De Vega due to breast cancer.
The Philippine Olympic Committee is also doing its part as POC president, incumbent Tagaytay City Mayor Abraham Tolentino, said funds amounting to P3.3 million that were unspent for the country’s hosting of the 30th Southeast Asian Games three years ago will be donated as a trust fund for athletes.
“We’re very thankful to the PHISGOC (Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee) for donating the saved money that we can use for our athletes in the future,” said Tolentino.
But Tolentino said the trust fund will be the source of cash incentives or bonuses for successful athletes.
Our sports leaders, along with our lawmakers, should take a unified step to create a more defined law that will finally answer the needs of our national athletes and coaches.
It should be done while sports legends of Lydia’s stature are still alive and can still enjoy the benefits of being our country’s pride in their heydays.