Politics and paddles: No SEA Games action for dragon boat team

by Camille Naredo, abs-cbnNEWS.com

Posted at Aug 09 2011 02:04 PM | Updated as of Aug 11 2011 01:39 AM

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Dragon Boat Federation (PDBF) team will not be representing the country in the upcoming Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) in November nor in the Asian Games in 2014.

This is because the PDBF is not a recognized national sports association (NSA) by the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) and the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC).

The dragon boat team won 5 gold medals and 2 silvers in the recently concluded International Dragon Boat Federation World Championships in Tampa Bay, Florida.

PSC chairman Ricardo Garcia said the PDBF team must first be endorsed by their sports association and the POC before they will be allowed to represent the Philippines in the SEA Games.

"Right now, they are not under any NSA. They are an independent group and they cannot join any event in the SEA Games or the Asian Games or the Olympics," Garcia said in an interview with DZMM’s Tambalang Failon at Webb.

Measly allowance

Garcia said an International Olympic Committee (IOC) memo states that the dragon boat event is under the discipline event of Canoe-Kayak.

The PDBF was asked to join the Philippine Canoe-Kayak Federation but due to political factions between both associations, they were unable to come up with a solution to unify the 2 NSAs.

The Canoe-Kayak Federation was eventually recognized by the POC as the legal NSA. The Canoe-Kayak Federation was also endorsed by the PSC.

The members of the dragon boat team tried for a month to join the Canoe-Kayak Federation but eventually left.

One reason was that their monthly allowance, which was supposed to be P20,000 for a world class athlete, was downgraded to only P8,000 a month.

According to Garcia, only the Philippines and Singapore have not complied with the IOC memorandum regarding dragon boat teams.

"Sa PSC, we have a policy na we recognize or endorse the association that is under the POC," he explained.

Possible accreditation

Garcia said there is still hope that the PDBF team can compete in the SEA Games and Asian Games if they will consent to join the Canoe-Kayak Federation.

"Pagdating nila, I'll talk to the officers ng grupo. Nire-recognize naman namin na talagang magaling ang grupong ito, and they should really represent our country sa SEA Games. But they have to be under the Canoe-Kayak (Federation)," he said.

Garcia insisted that unless the dragon boat team joins the Canoe-Kayak Federation, they will not be allowed to participate in international competitions sanctioned by the IOC.

"Meron talagang regulasyon, and unless we follow the rules and regulations, kahit anong galing ka pa, hindi ka talaga papayagang sumali," he said.

Garcia said that he hopes to convince the dragon boat team to join the Canoe-Kayak Federation.

"Siguro naman kaunting pakiusap lang ito," he said.

Politics in sports

Politics, however, may stop the Filipino paddlers from joining the Canoe-Kayak Federation and representing the country in the SEA Games.

According to a source, the dragon boat team had participated in a time trial in the hopes of joining the 2010 Asian Games. The time trial was organized by the POC, the PSC and the Canoe-Kayak Federation.

The dragon boat team beat the time and passed with flying colors, but the POC and Canoe-Kayak Federation claimed that the team must be using performance enhancing drugs.

They were thus unable to compete in the Asian Games.

The source added that the Dragon Boat Federation is not on good terms with the POC, particularly with its chairman, Peping Cojuangco, uncle of President Benigno Aquino III.

Garcia also said the law is preventing them from giving the PDBF team any incentive despite their medal haul.

"Sa Republic Act 9064, sinasabi dun na bago ka magbigay sa isang atleta o sa isang team ng incentive, you have to be recognized by the POC and the PSC, so even the law acknowledges the jurisdiction of the POC in recognizing the association," Garica said. -- With reports from Gretchen Malalad, ABS-CBN News and DZMM