Senator Alan Peter Cayetano urged the government to set the stage for the rise of next-generation Filipino sports champions by stepping up efforts to build a nationwide grassroots sports program.
Cayetano congratulated Filipino Olympian EJ Obiena, currently the world's No. 3 pole vaulter, for bagging silver at the just-concluded Internationales Springer-Meeting at Cottbus, Germany in his first outing of the 2023 indoor season.
"We are proud of you EJ! Thank you for being an inspiration and a hero for young Filipinos who now have someone they can point to and say, 'I want to be like him too!'" Cayetano said on Friday, Jan. 27.
At the same time, the independent senator envisions a solid and consistent grassroots program that will strengthen the country's pool of promising talents.
"We really need to revitalize our grassroots sports program. The next generation of EJ Obienas is out there, pero mag-uumpisa ‘yan with our schools and communities rallying behind their local sports programs," he said.
Noting that Obiena started training when he was only 8 years old, the senator said the training of young athletes can only happen if all schools are equipped with the facilities, equipment, and teachers needed to establish active sports programs at the school district level.
"Children are inspired by what they readily see. So sana hindi lang nila nakikita sa TV or sa social media ang sports kundi nalalaro at nagagawa din nila itong mga ito sa school kung kumpleto ang facilities, equipment, at staff," he said.
He also said the country needs to support athletes early in their training years instead of “racing to help only when they are already champions.”
“The future Hidilyn Diaz, the future Manny Pacquiaos are all there. Minsan hindi lang napapansin until sikat na sila,” he said.
A sports enthusiast and former chairman of the Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee (PHISGOC), Cayetano has long pushed for a nationwide grassroots program in order to enable budding athletes to receive formal education and training as early as possible.
The senator has also been named head of the Philippine volleyball delegation to the 2023 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Cambodia and has pledged to continue advocating for Filipino athletes in the Senate.
"Patuloy tayong tapat sa commitment natin sa ating athletes, that as they pour out their hearts and do their best in their respective sports, we will also do our best in the Senate to make sure the support you need gets to you," he said.