MANILA - To ensure that athletes are well supported while they seek honors for the country in the international arena, a bill was filed in the Senate for the creation of a national endowment fund for national athletes.
Senate Bill 1677 or the Bayaning Atletang Pilipino (Philippine Sports Heroes) Act aims to help the successors of the likes of Tokyo Olympic gold medalist in weightlifting Hidilyn Diaz and current world No. 3 pole vaulter Ernest John Obiena.
"Behind these successes and achievements are the hardships and dedication that every athlete exerted to bring honor to the country. Thus, in recognizing the contribution of these exceptional athletes, this bill seeks to grant distinctive honors and privileges to them," Senator Mark Villar said in his explanatory note.
The Order of National Athletes (Orden ng mga Pambansang Atleta) shall be created, the highest honor that the government will confer to outstanding athletes "who have brought immense pride and honor to the country and have dedicated their lives towards the advancement of their sports."
To support the continuous training of the awardees and their participation or exposure in international competitions, PHP1 billion will be appropriated as seed money for the Endowment Fund.
Government corporations will be authorized to give grants to the Fund at their discretion but not to exceed 15 percent of their unimpaired surplus.
The beneficiaries will be entitled to cash awards net of taxes and cash award net of taxes for posthumous awardees, payable to legal heirs; monthly life pension and medical and hospitalization benefits; life insurance coverage for awardees who are still insurable; place of honor in state functions, national commemoration ceremonies and all other sports and cultural events; a state funeral, the arrangements and expenses of which will be borne by the government.
The Komite ng Bayaning Atletang Filipino (Committee of the Filipino Sports Heroes) shall be under the Office of the President and chaired by the head of the Philippine Sports Commission.
Other officers and members are from the Department of Education, Commission on Higher Education, Philippine Olympic Committee, National Youth Commission, and National Historical Commission of the Philippines.
Republic Act 9064 or the National Athletes, Coaches, and Trainers Benefits and Incentives law grants retirement benefits to any national athlete, coach, and trainer who win in an international competition or has coached or trained such winning national athlete - a lump sum amount equivalent to 25 percent of the total cash incentives, computed from the start of the active sports career as a member of the national training pool up to the last day of retirement from active competition.
Cash incentives for gold medalists are PHP5 million for the Olympics, PHP2.5 million for a quadrennial worlds event, PHP1 million for the Asian Games, and PHP100,000 for the Southeast Asian Games.
Athletes and coaches also receive monthly allowance and training support, free medical and dental services in public hospitals, and Social Security System coverage, among others, under the current law. (PNA)