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ANTIQUE, Philippines – It’s all systems go as the final preparations for Palarong Pambansa 2017 came to a wrap for the opening of the games on Sunday, April 23.
Security has been tightened as no less than President Rodrigo Duterte will be the guest of honor at the opening of the games.
Palaro 2017 hopes to highlight youth empowerment through sports while underscoring the importance of unity and collaboration.
In a news briefing on Saturday, April 22, Education Secretary Leonor Briones noted that this year’s Palaro has a clearer objective.
“We want to attract more learners to go into sports as a profession and a field of specialization. We are looking forward to encouraging more kids to go into sports,” she said.
She also said the annual competition used to be politicized and very competitive, but this year will be a lot different, citing the objectives of Palaro: strengthening the sports program, contributing athletes to national sports activities, and endorsing sports as a strand in the Senior High School curriculum.
Antique Governor Rhodora Cadiao said some “firsts” are expected from the Sunday event.
“There’s no turning back. We are expecting some firsts in the opening of the Palarong Pambansa. This will be a great surprise to everybody. Expect one of the best openings of the Palarong Pambansa,” she said.
Cadiao said the province spent around P40 million to develop sports facilities and infrastructure for Palaro. Briones said the Department of Education invested an additional P50 million for the rehabilitation of schools in the province while the Philippine Sports Comission gave P10 million for sports equipment.
Cadiao also stressed how Palarong Pambansa has become an economic driver for her province.
“It has transformed this sleepy and almost practically unknown province into a machine that is now working. The people are energized,” Cadiao said.
As for small businessmen, she said, “They can now put the income in their pocket.”
During the press briefing, DepEd officials were asked how the department engages and follows-through with the Palaro winners after the national meet.
Briones said the DepEd has a partnership with the private sector and various universities. “Universities are always on the lookout for good athletes whom they can develop,” she added.
She also stressed the importance of the presence of parental encouragement in pushing kids to pursue sports as their specialization.
“And this is where media can really be of help because many parents think sports, even if their children are very good athletes, is a sideline, something that they have to do on their way to becoming doctors, lawyers, or engineers,” Briones said.
Education Assistant Secretary Tonisito Umali also aired the same concern, saying that there are other ways to engage Palaro winners after the competition, such as the Batang Pinoy and the Philippine National Games.
“This is their mechanism for grades 7, 8, 9, and 10; they can join even as young as grade 6. In other words, this is not just limited in elementary and secondary, for grade 6 and grade 12 only,” Umali said in Filipino.
Other than the economic value of holding Palarong Pambansa in Antique, the province is also gearing to invest in sports clinics that would help train their homegrown athletes.
“You cannot quantify the economic benefits but psychologically, this has done a lot of confidence building for Antiquenos. They will be reminded that despite the fact that we are a small province, we have so much to offer,” the Antique governor said.
Cadiao added that Palaro broke tradition when it awarded the hosting to Antique. Briones said this should serve as a precedent to small provinces.
“Inclusion was what it was all about. This is what we mean when we say no one is left behind,” Briones said.
Cadiao also stressed how sports development in the countryside can help promote small cities and provinces.
Luzon will be the next venue for #Palaro2018. – Rappler.com