MANILA, Philippines -- One of the authors of House Bill 1526, which seeks to ban minors from participating in competitive full-contact sports, hit back at the critics of the measure who believe it will have an adverse effect on the grassroots development programs of those sports.
HB 1526, or "An Act Banning Minors From Full-Contact Competitive Sports," was filed by Representatives Alfredo Garbin Jr. and Elizaldy Co of the Ako Bicol Party-list. It seeks to "prohibit the participation of minors in competitive full-contact sports," including boxing, mixed martial arts, jiu jitsu, muay Thai, judo, and various forms of full-contact karate.
The bill also seeks to regulate the participation of minors in leisure, non-competitive sports and in training.
"While acknowledging the importance and benefits and the values that can be derived from participating in these sports, this bill also recognizes the paramount need to protect the minors," the authors said in their explanatory note.
National sports associations (NSAs) heading combat sports expressed their concerns in a position paper published last Monday, where they maintained that banning minors from competing will be a major blow in their development -- and likely affect the country's competitiveness in these sports in the international level.
Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) president Abraham "Bambol" Tolentino, in an interview with The Philippine Star, bluntly said that sports "will go backwards" because of the bill. "We will lose our chances for gold medals," he said.
Garbin, in a sponsorship speech on Wednesday, clarified that HB 1526 "will not prevent the training and practice of the different full contact sports by minors, subject to certain guidelines, for recreational and non-competitive sport or for training."
"The bill does not prevent training and recreational full contact sports," he said. "It only provides safeguards. Hindi rin kasama sa ipinagbabawal ang mga martial arts that make use of protective gears."
"Ang ayaw natin ay ang full-blown competition where a participant is expected to exert maximum force on a minor without any protection whatsoever," he added.
In a statement, Garbin further stressed that the proposed legislation intends to "spare and protect our children from injury and death." He brought up five young athletes who passed away, including 16-year-old boxer Jonas Joshua Garcia who died of internal brain bleeding in December 2013.
"Some would say that the bill, if enacted into law, would be a big blow to our chances of winning gold in the Olympic games," said Garbin. "Pero sa aking pagkaka-alam and this is verifiable in the Olympics website, minors are not allowed to participate in Olympic boxing."
The Philippines has sent several boxers to the Olympic Games, including Eumir Marcial who will compete in Tokyo in 2021 and is tabbed as a contender for the gold medal. Now 25 years old, Marcial has been representing the country in boxing tournaments since his teenage years, and won in the AIBA Junior World Championships when he was 16.
Garbin stressed that the bill is still a draft that is open for inputs and improvements, and decried the "pure vitriol and toxicity" that he and his co-author have received from critics and "haters."
"Yes, the opening position taken is a ban on involving minors in full-contact competitive sports because children have died or suffered serious injuries in full-contact sports and in other sports because of the lack of end to end systemic safety measures," he said.
"That opening position is very open to revision and deliberation here in Congress. HB 1526 does not deserve to be dismissed outright. HB 1526 has merits."