Press Release
March 4, 2020

Bong Go supports protection and welfare of boxers and combat sports athletes

Senator Christopher Lawrence "Bong" Go reiterated on Wednesday, March 4, his commitment to help Filipino athletes at the public hearing for two Senate Bills (SBs) that seek to create a Philippine Boxing and Combat Sports Commission.

"I express my full support for the objectives of Senate Bill No. 193 and Senate Bill No. 805...These bills not only aim to strengthen and develop the quality of professional boxing and combat sports in the country but also ensure the protection and welfare of its athletes," Go said at the public hearing that the Senate Committee on Sports conducted jointly with the Committee of Health and Demography and Committee on Finance.

"The achievement of the objectives under the proposed Senate Bills can be a step in the right direction. This will not only provide a big boost to Philippine boxing and other combat sports; it will also secure the country's rightful place as a serious contender in the sporting world," he added.

The Senator acknowledged the contribution to the country of great Filipino boxers, including eight-division world champion Senator Manny Pacquiao, who filed SB 193. "Ang diskarte, tapang, at galing na kanilang pinamalas sa loob ng boxing ring ay nagbigay ng malaking karangalan sa bansa at sa buong lahing Pilipino."

He called for greater support for them. "Sana ay maisip din po natin na naabot nila ang tagumpay sa kabila ng konting suporta na nagmumula sa gobyerno. Paano na lang kaya kung itodo pa natin ang ating suporta sa mga ito?"

Go also noted "the emergence and popularity" in the country of combat sports. "I sincerely believe that, if we also give our full support to these emerging combat sports, they will become a source of prestige, honor and medals for the country," he said.

He then urged other government officials to support the plight of boxers and other combat sports athletes. "Napatunayan na po ng ating mga atletang Pilipino ang kakayahan nila sa larangan ng sports. Sa pamamagitan ng mga panukalang ito, patunayan din po natin--bilang mga miyembro ng Senado at ng gobyerno--na sinusuportahan natin ang mga atleta ng ating bayan."

Support for the bills

As Chair of the Senate Committee on Sports, Go presided the hearing where resource persons from both the public and private sectors shared their positions on the bills.

Most representatives of relevant government agencies expressed support for the bills, including the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC), Department of Health (DOH), Pag-IBIG Fund, Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) and Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR).

Representatives from the Muay Thai Association of the Philippines and Elorde Boxing also expressed support.

However, the Games and Amusements Board (GAB), which regulates and supervises professional sports and allied activities in the country, is against the creation of the new commission. "While we laud the initiative, feeling namin nagagawa na namin ang mga gustong gawin at ang mga gusto pang ipagawa sa amin, maaari naman naming gawin basta maalalayan lang po kami nang konti," GAB Chairman Abraham Kahlil Mitra said.

Through their president, the members of the Association of Philippine Professional Boxing Ring Officials also stated that they are "fine with the leadership" of Mitra.

Likewise, the Department of Budget and Management said that "the creation of the proposed commission is deemed not necessary since its proposed functions, programs, projects and activities are already inherent or currently being undertaken by the different offices or units" of the PSC and GAB.

Pacquiao clarified that he is "not questioning the capability of GAB" and he understands the agency's position, but as a boxer for more than 25 years, he "can say that it's necessary to establish a commission to handle and focus on the sport."

"Napakahirap talaga. Muntik na akong madisgrasya bago ko narating ito ngayon. Maraming mga kailangang gawin at hakbang para sa ating mga atleta, especially 'yung mga SSS, PhilHealth, medical requirements before the fight or regularly," Pacquiao said. He also pointed out that the country has a Philippine Racing Commission for horse racing, so he believes that there should also be one for boxing since it is a more difficult sport.

Senator Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa and representatives from the Governance Commission for GOCCs (GCG) and Lakay Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) Top Team also participated in the hearing. When the team's Chairman, Mark Sangiao, aired the difficulties that combat athletes face, Go asked him to submit a formal letter so that the Senator can find ways to address the problems.

Go's questions

Since creating the Philippine Boxing and Combat Sports Commission will affect the functions of GAB, Go asked the DBM if there were instances "in the bureaucracy where we separated one of the functions of a government agency and created a new one."

Ma. Elsa Rivera of DBM answered that the government has addressed the issues of redundant functions of government offices through Executive Order No. 366, signed in 2004. "We already did that during the Rationalization Plan. Those agencies with similar functions, it's either we merged them or we placed them in a single agency so that there will be no duplications of functions," she said.

She cited as an example the establishment of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), which absorbed the National Statistics Office (NSO), National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) and statistics-related functions of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).

Go also asked Mitra, "Since you believe that you can safely regulate professional boxing and combat sports, in what way can GAB be assisted to ensure that these sectors are fully managed and the boxers and combatants are well taken care of, as they would hopefully be, under the proposed Senate bills?"

The GAB Chairman said that the agency needs additional funding and the DBM has been informed of the matter.

Before suspending the hearing, Go said that another hearing will be scheduled so that other resource persons who were not able to attend will be given a chance to participate.

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