THIRTEEN national sports associations (NSA) are now up in arms against House Bill 1526, or “An Act Banning Minors from Full-Contact Competitive Sports, Imposing Penalties for Violation Thereof and for other Purposes.”
Six prominent stakeholders in martial arts sports, led by newly-elected Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) officials Pearl Managuelod of the Muaythai Association of the Philippines and David Carter of Philippine Judo Federation, took to the battle field to voice their opposition to the proposed bill.
Speaking at the “Usapang Sports on Air” by the Tabloids Organization in Philippine Sports (TOPS), Managuelod and Carter questioned the wisdom of the said bill prohibiting minors from participating in combat sport competitions, whether full contact or semi-contact.
Together with Philippine Wrestling Federation president Alvin Aguilar, Karate Pilipinas president Richard Lim, Samahang Kickboxing ng Pilipinas secretary-general Atty. Wharton Chan and Pilipinas Sambo Federation official Paolo Tancontian, they urged lawmakers to recognize the authority of “technical officials armed with proper training, knowledge, and experience in implementing stringent safety rules.”
These officials, they said, can only be provided by the NSAs recognized by both the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) and the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC).
“We call on the continued support of our athletes, coaches, and stakeholders. Let us be united in upholding the fundamental principles of Olympism,” said Carter during the weekly public service program sponsored by the PSC, Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation and the Games and Amusements Board (GAB).
“Ituloy lang natin ang pag-suporta sa ating mga kabataan sa kanilang pag-pupursige sa martial arts. This will boost their confidence and improve their character. Madaming benefits ang makukuha nila sa martial arts,” added Carter.
Carter said both PSC Chairman William “Butch” Ramirez and POC president Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino have already expressed their support to the athletes during the House hearing last Wednesday.
Managuelod, who helped craft the position paper submitted to the House of Representatives last Wednesday, assured the sporting community that the POC and sports officials will do their “best to make sure that there will be no bill that will be passed that will curtail the rights of the athletes to play sports.”
“We can move forward now and focus on the big task ahead and develop our athletes for the Olympics and other international competitions,” added Managuelod, who also thanked her colleagues for supporting the efforts.
Lim urged lawmakers to sit down with NSA officials and seek their opinions before deciding on the proposed bill.
“In karate, we are really opposing this proposal. But we can work hand in hand to work on this. Sana makapag-usap ang lahat at makuha ang aming mga opinion tungkol dito. Pare-pareho tayong ang gusto ay ang safety ng mga bata,” explained Lim.
“They also have to understand the rules of each NSAs. You cannot compare judo and wrestling as a contact sport. Wala naman suntok at sipa sa mukha. It’s totallly different. Sa karate, may mga gloves kami at protective gears but it doesn’t mean we can hit each,” explained Lim.
Aguilar, one of the more vocal leaders of the group, called the proposed bill “very distracting.”
“We need proper communication between the author of the bill and the NSAs. We have to make sure the real problem will come to light. There are a lot of other problems we have to tackle right now,” said Aguilar.
“Like what POC head Bambol Tolentino said, I hope isan-tabi muna natin ito because this is very distracting. We are supposed to be preparing for the Olympics, the largest sporting event for the world, pero iisipin pa natin na may bill na aalisin yun mga grassroot movement. Let’s focus on the very big task ahead.”
Atty. Chan claimed isolated cases of accidents in combat sports might be the reason why the plan to prohibit minors are being revived.
“They did not ask for information from respectable NSAs. Kami sana ang pinakamagandang source ng wisdom in whatever they are trying to enact.”
He also reminded everybody about the importance of sports in the society.
“Sports is not just about winning trophies and medals, but character building, especially socio-economic relationship with other nations. Without sports, there’s always a part of us that will be missing,”said Chan.
Joining the forum from Davao City, Tancontian said strengthening the training program of officials could be the key to avoid untoward incidents even in combat sports.
“Sa sambo, madami kaming mga bata na naglalaro. Pero tinitiyak namin na kumpleto ang mga safety requirements sa mga tournaments,” explained Tancontian.
The reaction of the NSA leaders came after the filing of House Bill No.1526, which states that there is a need to protect minor athletes from injuries and physical harm by prohibiting participation in combat sport competitions while allowing recreational training. It outlines prohibited acts, penalties for violators, and identification of roles and responsibilities of concerned parties.