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Philippine Sports Commission (PSC), outgoing chairman Richie Garcia has a simple advice to his successor: Look after the well-being of the athletes.
“As long as you address their needs and give them what they need, wala ka magiging problema sa mga atleta,” said Garcia yesterday during the PSA Forum.
Garcia, whose six years as chairman is the longest ever, has until June 30 to perform his duties but will stay on until Malacanang names his successor.
When he leaves, Garcia will have the distinction of serving under three Philippine presidents: Joseph Estrada, Gloria Macapagal and Noynoy Aquino.
Under Estrada and Arroyo, Garcia was one of four commissioners. He assumed the chairmanship under Aquino in 2010.
But his stewardship saw the worst performance by Filipino athletes abroad. The country had its worst showing in the Southeast Asian Games in Myanmar in 2013 where it placed seventh and was sixth in Singapore last year. Its gold medal haul in the SEA Games also continued to slide.
In the coming Rio Olympics, the Philippines may likely send the least number of athletes in decades because too few had qualified.
In the Asian Games two years ago, the country won just one gold medal. In the Olympics in London in 2014, no Filipino came close to winning a medal or even advancing to the medal round of any event.
Garcia, however, was able to make the country’s top athletes live a more decent and respectable life. He increased their allowances. Each elite athlete now receives P40,000 a month and also gets a separate amount for training.
He also worked to increase the financial incentives for athletes who win medals abroad. From P5 million, the cash incentive for winning an Olympic gold medal was raised to P10 million, while a silver is now worth P5 million (from P3 million) and P2 million (from P1 million).
Sadly, no athlete had benefited from this incentive.