By Mario Casayuran
The Senate on Monday unanimously approved on third and final reading a bill seeking to establish the new Philippine Boxing and Combat Sports Commission to “promote the safety and welfare” of Filipino boxers and combat sports athletes.
Passed was Senate Bill No. 1306, the “Philippine Boxing and Combat Sports Commission Act of 2018,” authored and sponsored by Senator Emmanuel D. Pacquiao, chairman of the Senate sports committee.
The voting was 20 affirmative votes, no negative vote, and zero abstention.
“It is about time that these passionate athletes who bring honor to our country while risking their lives inside the ring be given due attention, proper aid and necessary support,” Pacquiao said.
Pacquiao, a boxing icon, emphasized that the proposed ‘Philippine Boxing and Combat Sports Commission’ would “formulate and implement a national policy on the development, safety and welfare of Filipino professional boxers and combatants.”
An amendment introduced by Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon mandated the commission to provide assistance not only to local athletes and other stakeholders in professional boxing but also to those engaged in professional “combat sports.”
The bill defined combat sport as “any sport, martial art or activity that involves, in accordance to the applicable regulation, striking, kicking, hitting, grappling, throwing and or punching opponents.”
The Philippine Boxing and Combat Sports Commission will be composed of a chairman and four members and will be placed under the administrative supervision of the Office of the President.
Under the bill, professional boxers and combatants will be enrolled in the Social Security System (SSS), National Health Insurance Program-Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (Philhealth), and the Home Development Mutual Fund (PAG-IBIG).
Pacquiao said that the bill would require physical and medical examinations, as well as emergency medical services, in all professional boxing and combat sports matches.
He said the bill would also mandate alternative livelihood programs for retired or injured boxers and combatants.
“We are aware that some have met their untimely death due to the lack, if not absence, of safety and emergency medical services while others face retirement without any kind of financial assistance or access to medical care,” he stressed.
Pacquaio said that the country has a “huge potential” when it comes to boxing and similar sports, noting the successful careers of Filipino boxers like Pancho Villa, Gabriel “Flash” Elorde, Rolando Navarette, Luisito Espinosa, and Gerry Penalosa.
“How many more of the likes of Nonito Donaire Jr., Donnie Nietes at Brian Viloria are waiting to be given the chance to give pride and honor to our country?” he asked.