Press Release
March 1, 2023

Pia: sports diplomacy, migrant workers' welfare highlighted official trip to Spain and Portugal
Privilege speech of Senator Pia S. Cayetano

Thank you, Mr. President.

Mr. President, dear colleagues, I take the floor to report on my official trip to promote sports diplomacy.

I joined the Philippine Women's National Football Team as their head of delegation as they competed in the 2023 Pinatar Cup in Murcia, Spain.

It was such an uplifting experience to see our girls in action. Our athletes competed against Wales which is ranked 32nd, Scotland which is ranked 25th, and Iceland which is 16th in the international standings. The girls played very well against Wales, the score was just 1-0; against Iceland, it was actually 2-1 and although they lost, it was a great showing and a great experience. This was really the objective of joining the Pinatar Cup. The Philippines for the record is ranked 53rd in the international standings.

I am happy to share that Filipinos from different corners of the world also came to cheer for them. There were bus loads of our kababayans who came all the way from Madrid, Alicante, Valencia, Tarragona, the UK, and Rome. The chants from the Pinoy crowd were overwhelming and heartwarming, especially in the games against Iceland as it was a weekend and that's when many of our kababayans were able to come and support our team.

The team's journey is proof that Philippine women's football has arrived. They made "herstory" by qualifying for the 2023 FIFA World Cup. This is the first time for any Filipino Football team - men's or women's - to secure a spot in the world's most prestigious football game.

Seeing the girls play at a professional level also sends the signal to all, especially the little girls and the little boys that were watching, that women can thrive in sports, which only until recently, was considered a male-dominated field. In fact, when I was in college, women's football was not yet a UAAP sport. I don't even know of any organized league that existed at that time, save for a few girls who would just play on the field.

After the football event, I had the opportunity to promote another sport, Padel, which is a sport I recently took up. Padel is considered the fastest growing sport in Europe, if not in the entire world, where Spain is currently number one. Along with the Philippine Ambassador to Spain, Philippe Lhuillier, I met Spanish Padel Federation President Ramón Morcillo Valle.

As I mentioned earlier in my speech, to be able to have the opportunity to talk to the world's best, to ask how they got to the point where they are, is really a learning experience that I could take home with me, and again, consistent with the mandate of our embassy to promote sports diplomacy.

Meanwhile, in Portugal, I had a similar meeting with Ambassador Celia Anna Feria and Portuguese Federation of Padel President Ricardo Oliveira.

In line with the mandate of the Philippine Embassy in Portugal to promote cooperation between the Philippines' and Portuguese sports organizations, we discussed the existing Cultural Agreement between the two countries, with the emphasis on sports. Through sports diplomacy, the Embassy envisions many opportunities for the Philippines and Portugal to have closer ties.

I also discussed with Ambassador Feria a proposed labor agreement between the Philippines and Portugal that would make it easier for Filipinos to get a working visa in Portugal, since they are in much need of workers especially for their tourism industry.

I glanced at the Majority Floor Leader as I was delivering this, and already he was nodding his head, because I really was going to point this out to him. As we here in the Senate have witnessed the - "sloppy" is a very soft word to use, "inhumane" is a better word - treatment of our kababayans in some countries, I actually welcome that there would be a proposed labor agreement between a country like Portugal and the Philippines. Like many of you, I would prefer that our countrymen did not have to leave the country for work. But if they were to leave, I would prefer that they would be in a country like Portugal that I've seen through my own personal contacts with Portuguese, have very similar values as us and who would truly respect our Filipino workers there. I think there is still work that has to be done to make this a reality, but I hope we will be able to do this.

And also joining us in the discussions was Member of Parliament Ricardo Baptista-Leite, and the one that can be seen in the photo is coach Bryan, who received his training both in Spain and in Portugal.

And then, back to Spain, I had the opportunity to join our kababayans, mostly women, in their post-Valentine's Day celebration. It's always a wonderful opportunity to mingle with our kababayans, especially this opportunity to celebrate with them a very special day.

So on that note, dear colleagues, that's the end of my report. As I always say, I learned from the best, the late Sen. Nene Pimentel told me to always be sure to report on my official missions as soon as we come back. So thank you for this opportunity to share the official work that I did. Thank you.

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