AT least 13 National Sports Associations in combat sports are against a proposed bill banning athletes aged 17 and below from taking part in competitions, stressing this could spell the end of grassroots development for their respective disciplines if the measure is passed.
The opposition to House Bill No. 1526 authored by Ako Bicol party-list representatives Alfredo Garbin Jr. and Elizaldy Go was contained in a manifesto issued last Sunday.
The signatories in the six-page position paper were led by Senate majority leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, the president of the Philippine Eskrima and Kali-Arnis Federation.
Other sports NSA officials who signed the document were second Philippine Olympic Committee second vice president and fencing head Richard Gomez, POC Executive Board member and judo chief Dave Carter, wrestling honcho Alvin Aguilar, karate head Ricky Lim, pencak silat chief Princess Jacel Kiram and sambo head L. Pietro Claudio.
Also signing the petition were POC board member and muay thai secretary general Pearl Managuelod and counterparts Ed Picson, Julian Camacho, Wharton Chan, Ferdie Agustin and Rocky Samson of boxing, wushu, kick boxing, jiu-jitsu and taekwondo, respectively.
Even POC president Bambol Tolentino has expressed opposition to the proposed bill.
The lawmakers, explaining the rationale behind the proposed law, noted that “while acknowledging the importance, benefit, and values that can be derived from participating in these sports, this bill also recognizes the paramount need to protect the minors.
“Such responsibility is imposed on parents, guardians, schools and sports associations because the minors are incapacitated (sic) to give consent nor can they waive any right of action for injuries inflicted upon them during and connection with such activities.”
The bill would penalize parents, guardians, organizations, associations and schools if minors – those 17 and below – are caught competing in combat sport competitions.
A hearing of the planned law is settomorrow at the House of Representatives, with NSA officials and other stakeholders such as the Philippine Olympic Committee and Department of Health, among others, invited to explain their sides on the issue.
“Mamamatay po ‘yong grassroots sports natin, especially judo, if this bill is passed. It will set us back and will leave us behind with the rest of the other countries that start training their athletes as young as four years old,” Carter said on behalf of the NSAs concerned.
He added their international federations have laid down guidelines and protective gear to safeguard the health and safety of their athletes, which was highlighted in the manifesto.
“In our own sport we have been fortunate not to have suffered any concussions during our competitions over the past years because of these safeguards and guidelines. The worst injuries we’ve had are dislocations, which we regard as ‘minor’ in our sports,” Carter, who is the Judo Union of Asia sports director, explained.
He added that his own discipline was cited by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization as one sport that was ideal for a child’s physical growth and development because “it helps in fostering psycho-motor functions and decision-making.”
Carter also pointed out that judo, the first combat sports to be introduced in the Olympics during the 1964 Tokyo Games; taekwondo and karate were included in the calendar of events of the Youth Olympic Games where the athletes competing are aged 17 and below.
“We know that the authors of the bill are well-meaning, but we ask them to review the measure carefully and its consequences to local sports development under its present form,” he said.