A TOTAL of 159 Philippine athletes will compete in the 2017 Asean School Games from July 13 to 21 in Singapore.
Top performers from the Palarong Pambansa in Antique were picked as the Philippines tries to surpass the sixth place finish when it last participated in the meet in 2015. A year before that, the Philippines placed fourth.
Department of Education assistant secretary Tonisito Umali said the creation of the K-12 program in the Philippines has given the country a deep pool of talent for the ASEAN School Games.
"Dahil basic education at hindi pa tayo K-12, medyo bata pa ang ating mga manlalaro na nanalo. Pero ngayon, may Grade 11 to 12, doon pa lang, nakakapantay na tayo sa edad ng maglalaro," said Umali during Tuesday's Philippine Sportswriters Association Forum at the Golden Phoenix Hotel.
Among the top athletes in the Philippine team are swimmers Sancho Ilustre and Jerald Jacinto, and track athletes Francis Obiena and Jie Anne Calis.
The Philippines will also compete in badminton, sepak takraw, basketball, gymnastics, table tennis, tennis and volleyball.
"Ngayong taon, we hope to land second or third. When we do that, it will be a big achievement in itself," said Umali.
"The reason we are participating which is incidental ang dahilan ay 'yung disiplina na nais natin maikintal sa isipan ng mga manlalaro ay ang konsepto na tayo sa Asean ay dapat magsama sama at sa pagkakataong ito, sama sama tayong maglaro sa lingwahe ng palakasan na tayo ang magkakaunawaan," said Umali.
The athletes will be housed in different parts of Metro Manila including the PhilSports complex for a 10-day training period before leaving for Singapore. Coaches and technical officials will also undergo training.