After PH wins first Olympic gold, Palace admits inadequate financial aid for athletes

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 27) — Malacañang admitted that government funding for the country’s athletes has not been enough, a barrier which Olympic gold medalist Hidilyn Diaz had faced before making history.

“Alam ko po talagang kulang [I know it’s really not enough],” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a briefing on Tuesday, as he likened national athletes’ allowance to a “minimum wage.”

“Titignan po natin kung paano natin mababago ito [We will look into how we can change this],” he added.

Before securing on Monday the Philippines’ first-ever Olympic gold in 97 years, weightlifter Diaz in 2019 bared the apparent lack of state support as she appealed for sponsorship from the private sector.

This was already after the Zamboanga native won a silver medal and ended the country’s two-decade medal drought in the Olympics in 2016, earned a gold medal in the 2018 Asian Games, and brought home three silver medals from the 2019 Asian Weightlifting Championships.

While acknowledging the government has been remiss in providing aid, Roque maintained “no one can say” President Rodrigo Duterte's administration is not dedicated to Philippine sports.

This commitment, he said, is evident in the construction of “world-class” training facilities in the New Clark City in Pampanga, which were completed in 2019.

Without divulging exact figures, he also said the President vowed to award “millions” of pesos to Diaz for bringing glory to the country. He said this is on top of another millions’ worth from the private sector.

Under Republic Act No. 10699, signed by the late former President Benigno Aquino III in 2015, the Philippine Sports Commission is also directed to issue ₱10 million as cash incentive to Summer and Winter Olympic Games gold medalists.

“Hidilyn truly deserves it,” Roque said. “Kung ano man ang pagkukulang sa training, I’m sure na mababawi po lahat 'yan doon sa generosity hindi lang po ng pamahalaan kundi ng pribadong sektor dahil she truly made us proud."

[Translation: Whatever shortcoming there was during her training, I’m sure the generosity of the government and the private sector will make up for that, because she truly made us proud.]

Malacañang also believes Diaz's latest victory in Tokyo will be a turning point for the nation’s struggling athletes. The “game-changer” win, Roque said, is enough reason for policymakers to increase funding for sports.

“Dahil napakita natin na (kahit na) ganun kulang talaga ang suporta natin, eh nanalo parin ng ginto, siguro mas maraming mananalo ng ginto kung medyo itataas natin ‘yung tulong na ibinibigay natin sa atleta,” Roque said.

[Translation: Because we proved that even when support was lacking, we were still able to bag a gold medal, perhaps the Philippines will have more triumphant athletes if we'll only augment the help we give them.]