MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The professional boxers of the Philippines are one-step closer to having vital health requirements covered free of cost after the Games and Amusements Board (GAB) and the Department of Health (DOH) signed a memorandum of agreement on Tuesday, August 15.
The deal was signed at the DOH central office in Manila by GAB Chairman Abraham “Baham” Mitra and Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial.
Under the agreement, the more than 1,000 boxers will have their essential licensing medical requirements covered for free at DOH-run hospitals, including medical and neurological exams, neurophysiological exam (every 3 years), chest x-ray, electrocardiogram (12 lead with strip tracing), plus Hepatitis B testing, drug testing for marijuana and methamphetamine, CT Scan or MRI with MRA (Magnetic Resonance Angiography), complete blood count test, urinalysis, Electroencephalogram (commonly referred to as an EEG), and Serum Glutamic Pyruvic Transaminase test.
Additional requirements for fighters competing in world championship fights to be covered by the agreement include HIV and Hepatitis C screening, an eye examination, and neurological clearance.
Mitra adds that the provision for free pre-fight requirements will kick in next week when GAB and DOH officials meet to establish internal rules and regulations. Additional post-fight coverage for injuries sustained in the fight will be in the agency’s budget proposal for next year.
Health coverage would only be available for the boxers, not dependents as was proposed at the GAB Convention last May in Davao City.
“I hope the Senate and the House can approve it as it’s only P4 million,” Mitra told Rappler, adding that Senator Loren Legarda had expressed her approval, and PBA party-list representatives Mark Sambar and Jericho Nograles are backing it in the House.
“So now GAB and DOH will provide for pre-fights while if budget proposal is approved we also will have post-fight care insurance,” Mitra adds.
Mitra praises Secretary Ubial for her part in helping cover the country’s boxers, who have contributed significantly to the country’s profile through the in-ring exploits of fighters like Manny Pacquiao and Donnie Nietes.
“Secretary Ubial is God’s gift to boxing and we’re very lucky to have a sports-minded Secretary of Health. She understood right away the need for this kind assistance when we initially intimated to her the situation.”
“I assure our dedicated professional boxers that DOH welcomes this ongoing partnership with the Games and Amusements Board which aims to secure their overall well-being in the practice of this profession,” Ubial was quoted as saying in a release.
Boxing promoter Anson Tiu Co was on hand for the signing, and hailed the agreement, saying it would leave more money in the boxers’ pockets.
“I am all in supporting the chairman and health secretary’s plan of free medical procedures to pro boxers,” said Tiu Co.
Dino Olivetti, a Laguna-based promoter, said the proposal will help alleviate the costs of “small-time” operators like himself. – Rappler.com
UPDATE (August 16, 11:25): The story has been updated to reflect that pre-fight requirements will be available once the DOH and GAB meet to establish internal rules and regulations. The P4 million figure for budget approval pertains to post-fight coverage for injuries sustained during fights and does not extend to dependents, says Mitra.