Former House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano on Saturday expressed pride at the achievements of Filipino athletes competing in the 31st Southeast Asian Games in Hanoi, saying he is optimistic Philippine sports can secure a stronger foothold in the international arena.
This as the Philippine contingent bagged six more golds, eight silvers, and eight bronzes on the second and third days of the competition for an overall tally of 33 as of this writing.
“Kitang kita natin ang galing ng mga athletes natin, and they have so much potential. Dapat pabilisin ng susunod na administration ang pag-develop sa National Academy of Sports para magtuloy-tuloy ang success natin internationally,” Cayetano said.
“Huwag nating sayangin y’ung momentum na meron tayo ngayon. We owe it to our athletes to give them a home,” he added.
The Philippines now has seven gold medals at the biannual regional sporting event. The first was won by Filipina pencak silat martial artist Francine Padios at the start of the games.
On Saturday, Filipino triathletes Fer Cesares and Kim Mangrobang both won gold in the men’s and women’s race, respectively.
Olympian Carlos Yulo won gold in the men’s all-around artistic gymnastics event on Friday, while settling for silver in the team event after the Philippines scored 30 points less than the winning Vietnamese team.
Kickboxing gave the country a significant medal haul on Day 2 of the SEA Games, with Jean Claude Saclag winning gold in the men’s 63.6 kg low-kick event and Gina Iniong topping the podium in the women’s 60 kg low-kick finals.
Meanwhile, Filipino kickboxers Zephania Ngaya, Gretel de Paz, Renalyn Dacquel, and Claudine Veloso won a silver each in their respective events on Friday.
The country’s kurash or folk wrestling team also struck gold after wrestler Jack Escarpe bagged the gold medal in the men’s kurash -73 kg event. The team now has a total of eight medals, including three silvers and four bronzes.
Cayetano, who chaired the Philippine SEA Games Organizing Committee when the country hosted the 2019 games, is a main author of Republic Act 11470 which establishes the NAS as the country’s premier educational institution for athletes training and development.
RA 11470 was signed into law by President Rodrigo Duterte on June 9, 2020. The main campus of the NAS broke ground in October 2021 and is currently under construction in New Clark City in Capas, Tarlac.
The first phase of development of the NAS was supposed to be finished by February this year but as of the end of March 2022, the institution has yet to inaugurate its campus facilities.
Cayetano said by completing the physical facilities of the NAS and starting face-to-face classes at the academy as soon as possible, the Philippines can start building a substantial corps of young athletes who can represent the country in international competitions right up to the Olympics.
The former House Speaker has been advocating for the development of sports and widening access to sports education in the country.