Revisiting the Sports and Benefits Incentives Act for National Athletes and Coaches

by Erick A. Fabian Sr.

A look into the rewards that National Training Program members should be getting from the government, then and now.

 

Republic Act 9064: A needed boost

Ithe-philippine-olympic-team-at-2008-beijing-olympicsn 2001, former President Gloria Arroyo signed the Republic Act 9064also known as the “National Athletes, Coaches and Trainers Benefits and Incentives Act of 2001,” or “Sports Benefits and Incentives Act of 2001”—a law meant to benefit Filipino athletes and sports professionals.
The purpose of the Act was to “promote excellence in sports and through sports by providing for the welfare of national athletes, coaches and trainers competing for the country and particular benefits and incentives for those who have brought honor and recognition to the country by winning in international competitions.”

As the said law states, deserving recipients registered under the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) are to be given “cash and other non-monetary benefits to national athletes, coaches, and trainers”. Some of the specific incentives are the following:

  • Twenty percent (20%) discount from all establishments relative to the utilization of transportation services, hotels, and other lodging establishments, restaurants and recreation centers and purchase of medicine and sports equipment anywhere in the country.
  • Minimum of twenty percent (20%) discount on admission fees charged by theaters, cinema houses and concert halls, circuses, carnivals, and other similar places of culture, leisure and amusement.
  • Free medical and dental consultations in private or public hospitals and similar establishments anywhere in the country and medical insurance program to be provided by the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PHIC).
  • A comprehensive social security program to be formulated by the Social Security System within one hundred eighty (180) days from the approval of this Act.
  • Priority in existing livelihood programs being undertaken by various government agencies subject to the guidelines and qualifications by the implementing body
  • Priority in national housing programs, affordable “pabahay” loans and other housing opportunities subject to the guidelines and qualifications set by the National Housing Authority (NHA) or the Home Development Mutual Fund (HDMF).
  • Other benefits included scholarships, death benefits, and retirement benefits, with family beneficiaries as well.

All in all, it was a well-stated law with admirable intentions. As with every law, though, its power is only as effective as how it is enforced.

According to sports writer Neil Bravo, it took nine years since its legislation to be actually be enforced, under the administration of President Aquino. It encountered several problems along the way. The government agencies involved are having a hard time coordinating with each other in allocating the benefits.

It also had its share of controversies. What was meant to benefit all national athletes competing for the country turned out to be discriminatory in its choice of recipients. Longtime sports journalist and sports TV commentator Joaquin M. Henson opined in his August 6, 2003 article, written for his Philstar column “Sporting Chance,” that “[the] scope of the law…is limited. It defines the competitions under review as the Olympics, quadrennial World Championships, the Asian Games and the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games. That means no recognition for annual or biennial events such as the Bowling World Cup and the World Pool Championships, which are both yearly jousts. RA 9064 also rules out recognition for athletes who earn prize money. In effect, the coverage is strictly for athletes who compete under the aegis of the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) and the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC).”

While it is still lauded as a step in the right direction when it comes to improving the poor state of the sports industry in the Philippines, it is in need of several improvements, alongside its enforcement, in order to become a beneficial reality for Pinoy athletes.

Even Inquirer sports columnist Manolo R. Iñigo put in his two cents by saying that the R.A. 9064 is unfair to non-Olympic sports. There are several international sports competitions that Filipino athletes join in that requires the same amount of hard work and training as the Olympic sports. A sports incentives law, in other words, should be inclusive and wider in its scope in order to be successful in improving the country’s sports industry.

 

Enter House Bill 5912

philippines-parade-2Last August 2015, the House of Representatives approved the third reading of House Bill 5912, also known as the National Athletes and Coaches Benefits and Incentives Law. The bill is intended to repeal RA 9064 and to expand its scope to include all types of sports competitions.

If finally passed into law, it should provide benefits and incentives for national athletes and other athletes who win in international sports competitions, as they represent a positive side of the country in the international arena.

Rep. Anthony G. Del Rosario, chairperson of the House Committee on Youth and Sports Development, promises that “The bill will expand the coverage of incentives granted to national athletes and coaches in a bid to promote excellence in sports and looking after the welfare of national athletes and coaches competing for the country.”

The lawmaker added that the bill increases the incentives granted to national athletes and coaches, while also expanding into the coverage of international sports competitions. Unlike RA 9064 though, this one excludes trainers from being beneficiaries of the incentives and benefits. More so, athletes with disabilities are now added to the definition of ‘national athletes’.

HB 5912 is more inclusive as it defines national athletes as athletes of Filipino citizenship, who are members of the national training pool, accredited by the POC and the PSC. It includes athletes with disabilities recognized and accredited by the National Paralympic Committee (NPC) and the PSC, and who have represented the country in international sports competition as Team Philippines.

For one, under the measure the national athletes who have represented the country in international sports competitions, recognized and accredited by the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) and the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) as Team Philippines, who won gold, silver and bronze medals in international sports competitions shall be entitled to cash awards.

The other perks are similar to the ones previously stated in RA 9064, but this bill promises to have more enforcement weight to it. Some of those expansions include:

  • Tax deduction, instead of tax credit to private establishments for giving 20% discounts to the athletes and coaches.
  • Penalties and fines for any person, corporation or juridical person for non-compliance of the 20% discount granted to the national athletes and coaches is also provided in the measure.
  • Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PHILHEALTH) benefit through PSC sponsorship and makes the athletes honorary member at the age of 55 while the coach at the age of 60.
  • Winning national athletes are entitled to scholarship benefits, and would likewise be given priority by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and the Technical Education Skills and Development Authority (TESDA).

While this bill is indeed an improvement on the old one, the enforcement issue remains. Hopefully, Pinoy athletes will see its promises fulfilled soon and that our hard-working sports professionals are given their due. If it does happen, we can once more look forward to a raise in national morale and an improved Philippine athletics industry, and consequently, a progress in our nation-building efforts.

For more information on both RA 9064 and HB 5912: