Senator Francis 'Chiz' Escudero yesterday encouraged government to support the Philippine Olympic Committee's (POC) efforts to standardize events in Southeast Asian Games to help raise the level of sports in the region and enhance the member countries' chances in the Olympics.
Escudero, an avid pistol shooter and biker, said the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) can also start discussions with its regional counterparts to press its bid for a standard calendar of events in future Games without disregarding the commitment to propagate indigenous sports on the side.
"I believe governments can make an impact in raising the level of sports in Southeast Asia," Escudero said.
"While national olympic committees - including the POC - are autonomous and free from political pressure and interference, I believe there is a very thin line of division while maintaining a high respect between NOCs and governments that would merit cooperation in this line," Escudero added.
Escudero noted that no Southeast Asian country had won a gold medal in the 2012 Olympics in London, with all SEAG countries faring poorly compared to their performance in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Medal-winning SEAG countries were Thailand (two silvers and one bronze), Indonesia (one silver and one bronze), Malaysia (one silver and one bronze) and Singapore (two bronze medals) while Vietnam, East Timor, Brunei, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, and the Philippines did not have any medal.
"This is a bad sign for the region. We have been struggling in sports for so long, and news about SEA Games hosts clipping Olympic sports from their calendars if only to ensure their own victories in sports unfamiliar to their neighbors do not help the region in any way," Escudero said.
"At most, they garner only miniscule and temporary gains," Escudero said. "Maybe it's high time we think about the region's sports future by supporting calls for a standard calendar in future SEA Games."
Escudero said government could help raise the level of participation among the youth, especially in disciplines being played in the Olympics, by way of the physical education curricula of the Department of Education.
"Go play basketball, which is still the most popular sport in the country. But play other sports, too," Escudero said.
Government, according to Escudero, should also look at the long term by building more sports facilities in key cities and provinces, or by entering into partnerships with the private sector in constructing and maintaining such.
"Sports has long been in the sidelines of government priorities, but it is important in gauging a country's economic growth. More developed countries have Olympic champions, we have none yet," Escudero said.
But keeping a regular Olympic program in the SEA Games, according to Escudero, would raise the level of competition and improve athletes, including Filipino athletes who have yet to strike gold in the Olympics.
Escudero's statement came on the heels of a recent decision by this year's SEA Games host Myanmar to scrap several Olympic events from the event's roster in favor of local events not being played by majority of the members of the SEA Games Federation.
The POC and the Singapore Olympic Committee are among the major NOCs battling for the standardization of SEA Games events by having Olympic events fixed in the SEAG calendar.