Taking a Dive: The Plight of Philippine Sports

The 28th edition of the Southeast Asian Games has recently concluded, with Philippine athletes bagging 29 gold medals, 36 silver medals, and 66 bronze medals.

The 28th edition of the Southeast Asian Games has recently concluded, with Philippine athletes bagging 29 gold medals, 36 silver medals, and 66 bronze medals. This performance is good enough for a 6th place in the Overall Medal Tally, trumping our 7th place performance in the 2013 Myanmar SEA Games. Our total gold medals for the 2015 SEA Games also matches the number of gold medals won in the 2013 SEA Games. But, underneath the triumph we celebrate from bagging these medals lies a truth forlorn – the truth about the plight of competitive sports in the Philippines.

2015 performance a far cry from the 1990s

Our 6th and 7th place finishes in both 2015 and the 2013 SEA games is a far cry from our performance in the 90's, where a 3rd place win in the medal tally was customary. Since the 90's, however, the performance of our athletes either steadily declined or our competition in the Southeast Asian neighborhood has gotten better. This resulted in our steady decline as one of Southeast Asia's powerhouse countries in the field of sports.

Our neighbors in the Southeast Asian region have definitely caught up with us performance-wise. Sooner or later, our prized dominance in Men's Basketball may soon be gone, as evidenced by the strong showing of Indonesia and Thailand against our vaunted Gilas Pilipinas Men's Basketball team.

Governing Sports Agencies

The Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) and the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) have been hit hard by controversies involving alleged misuse of their funds, lack of support and supervision to national sports associations, and wrong prioritization initiatives.

Sen. Pia Cayetano even went as far as threatening to give the PSC zero budget allocation for "the latter’s failure to supervise and sanction national sports associations which prevented some of the country’s outstanding athletes from competing in the Southeast Asian Games" (in reference to the 27th SEA Games held in Myanmar).

Poor Performance due to lack of support

One of the effects of politics and mismanagement in Philippine sports was highlighted in a recent viral video showing 2 Filipino divers failing to attempt a dive, labeled by netizens as "the worst dives you'll ever see."

No one can deny that apart from budgetary constraints, the lack of international exposure and state-of-the-art facilities for Filipino athletes have compounded with archaic systems and modes of training being given and provided to our athletes. 

Clearly, investment in sports is not a priority as far as government funding is concerned.

Why are we here? Why are we talking again of making improvements in training, investment, and funding for our athletes to enhance their performance?

Allow me to throw-in questions on sports as being a national priority: Is competitive sports of much importance to a country struggling to put food on the table of poor households? Does sports figure in the priority of the Philippine government when its funds are being spread thinly amongst defense, education, health, housing, and social welfare? Does sports partake of greater significance to Filipinos other than being a source of entertainment, a temporary relief from the daily grind of life, and a source of national pride for only a few days or at least a week? These are the realities befalling the state of Philippine Sports, realities that must be confronted with and face head on.

Truth be told, we are losing our competitive edge even in sports competitions even in fields where we used to dominate like basketball, billiards, and boxing. Truth be told, we will not have an abundance of funds to work with in the future during biennial sports meets like the SEA Games and even for the quadrennial Asian Games and Olympics. Truth be told, we need people like Mr. MVP who would go out of his way to support Philippine Sports in his private capacity. 

Just as in other cases, we cannot expect the government to rescue our floundering performance in sports. As usual, we have to fend-off for ourselves, hope for MVPs to bail us out in terms of financial support, and hope that luck strikes on our side to give us a slim chance even just to be called ‘competitive.’

The lifeline of our competitive capabilities in sports competitions may be at the brink passing; but one thing is for sure: Filipino athletes have the fullest resolve to represent and bring honor to our flag and country. This may be our only remaining advantage – our competitive spirit.




The writer, Aaron Benedict de Leon, is a sports enthusiast, nay, a sports lover. He dreams of one day seeing Filipino athletes best others from different regions in the world. Who does not, anyway?

About the Author
Mr. Aaron Benedict De Leon is currently a Business Development Practitioner in a private consulting firm. He has more than six years of professional experience in leading and managing political and non-government organizations, specializing in organizational management, policy development and program management. He has had stints with notable political/socio-civic organizations, serving in various capacities as: Secretary-General of the Centrist Democratic Party of the Philippines (CDP) [2013-2015], Founding Chairperson of the Centrist Democratic Youth Association of the Philippines (CDYAP) [2012-2014], Philippine Representative to the International Young Democrat Union (IYDU) [2011-2012], Chairperson of the Christian Democratic Youth [2011-2012], Secretary-General of YOUTH Philippines [2010-2011], and Spokesperson/Communications Director of the GT2010 Gilbert Teodoro Presidential Campaign [2009-2010].
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