MANILA, Philippines – A total of 159 Philippine athletes will compete in the 2017 ASEAN School Games from July 13 to 21 in Singapore.
Department of Education assistant secretary Tonisito Umali said the athletes will come from the top performers in the recent Palarong Pambansa in San Jose, Antique.
Umali is confident that the country can surpass its best placing of fourth place in 2014, wherein the Philippines finished with 11 golds, 14 silvers, and 22 bronzes.
According to Umali, 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," Umali said during Tuesday's PSA Forum at the Golden Phoenix Hotel.
Among the athletes who made it to the delegation and are expected to contend for gold in the ASEAN School Games are swimmers Sancho Ilustre and Jerald Jacinto, and tracksters Francis Obiena and Jie Anne Calis.
Aside from swimming and athletes, the Philippines will also compete in seven other sports in badminton, sepak takraw, basketball, gymnastics, table tennis, tennis, and volleyball.
"Ngayong taon, we hope to land second or third," said Umali. "When we do that, it will be a big achievement in itself."
More than winning medals, Umali said another aim of the Philippine delegation to the ASEAN School Games is to develop the values of sports to the athletes.
"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.
For the very first time, 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 during that time frame.
(For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website.)