MANILA, Philippines – The leaders of Philippine sports organizations convened with athletes, coaches, and other stakeholders at Malacañang on Wednesday, in a show of unity and force ahead of the 30th Southeast Asian Games.
In attendance in the unity meeting were Philippine Sports Commission chairman William "Butch" Ramirez, newly elected House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, who is also the chairman of the Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee, along with officials of the PSC and the Philippine Olympic Committee.
Also present were Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and Senator Christopher Lawrence "Bong" Go, both of whom reiterated that President Rodrigo Duterte was in full support of the country's hosting of the SEA Games.
"This meeting is called within the walls of Malacañang Palace to show that President Duterte is giving his 100% support to the country's hosting of the 30th SEA Games," said Medialdea. "Full support ho ang presidente sa Philippine sports."
Medialdea called on the leaders of Philippine sports to set their squabbles aside, as "the preparation for the hosting and the training of our athletes should be at the forefront of everyone's mind."
Ramirez, who is also the chef-de-mission of Team Philippines for the SEA Games, said that the athletes, coaches, and officials chose "to unite and put country and flag topmost of our priorities."
"Let us come together for our country and for the sake of our athletes. Let us march together in spite of our differences," he added.
"As the chief of the government's sporting arm, I am heavily invested into ensuring that whatever the situation and political climate in sports, our athletes are shielded and given the support they need to focus on their goals of victory."
Go also gave a message to the athletes, as he vowed to be an advocate for sports development as a senator.
Cayetano, meanwhile, acknowledged that there have been plenty of strife during the lead-up to the SEA Games, with PHISGOC being accused of corruption while the POC is still going through a leadership overhaul.
"Today let me apologize kung na-politicize ang SEA Games. For one reason, that I'm a politician, but let's also be truthful to each other. There's so much politics in sports," he said.
"I don't blame any of you here for that because the politics is coming from the passion. You're very competitive, you're very disciplined, you're very committed. You want to win," he added.
Rather than focusing on the politics, however, Cayetano called on the athletes, coaches, and other sports personalities to "win as one."
"We can only win as one if we plan as one. So please, join us in the last phase of the planning, and we have room for everyone's opinion," he said.
Stephen Fernandez, deputy head of the Philippines SEA Games contingent, said the meeting will have a good effect on the athletes.
“We put ourselves together as one unit and we really have to work together especially for our athletes who are training abroad,” Fernandez said.
“As a former athlete I believe when they see that our officials are united together, the more the morale of our athletes is boosted.”
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