The House committee on games and amusement chaired by Rep. Gus Tambunting (2nd District, Parañaque City) has created a technical working committee (TWG) to further study and fine-tune a bill which seeks to grant perks and privileges to professional athletes who won in international competitions.
The TWG to be headed by Rep. Mark Aeron Sambar (Party-list, PBA) will work on House Bill 299 or the proposed “Professional Filipino Athletes Health Care, Retirement and Death Benefits Act.”
The bill authored by Reps. Horacio Suansing Jr. (2nd District, Sultan Kudarat) and Estrellita Suansing (1st District, Nueva Ecija) aims to provide health care, retirement and death benefits to professional Filipino athletes who win world championship titles in international professional sports competitions or in other equally prestigious world championship games, in both individual and team events, in recognition of the glory and honor they bestowed to the country.
In his sponsorship speech, Suansing said the country is blessed to have world-class athletes in numerous sports, with some of them, such as Senator Manny Pacquiao (boxing) and Efren “Bata” Reyes, Jr. (billiards) becoming legends in their sports.
He said more than putting the country on the map in the sporting world, the country’s athletes brought pride, hope and joy to the nation even in times of hardship.
“Indeed, our champions deserve to receive adulation throughout their lives. But I strongly believe they should also receive concrete benefits and privileges,” Suansing said.
He further said the career of a professional athlete is short and not many athletes get to play into their 40’s. Athletes in many sports are not also compensated well during their careers.
“Many of them are not able to save enough to sustain themselves after retirement. Many of them struggle to make ends meet,” said Suansing.
Suansing noted that athletes have huge health risks due to the physical nature of their career.
He cited the case of world boxing champion Z Gorres who fell into a coma after winning his match.
Suansing said Gorres was fortunate that many people contributed to pay the medical bills the boxer incurred.
“But because of what happened, he was never able to return to the boxing ring again and was forced to find other sources of income,” said Suansing, a vice chairman of the committee on public order and safety.
House Bill 299 defines “Professional Filipino Athletes” as athletes who are Filipino citizens and have been paid a sum of money or other compensation as salary or prize money for participating in a game, bout, tournament, or contest of professional sport, either as an individual contestant or as a member of a team, under a contract entered into with a professional sports promoter/operator or team owner and licensed by the Games and Amusement Board (GAB).
It provides that immediately upon winning in any international professional sports competitions, professional Filipino athletes shall be covered by the National Health Insurance Program or the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth), through a special program sponsored by the GAB, which will provide the required local government premium counterpart to be directly remitted to the PhilHealth.
In case of hospitalization of the professional Filipino athlete in any hospital or clinic, any amount in the excess of the PhilHealth benefit shall be shouldered by the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) under its Individual Medical Assistance Program (IMAP).
As for retirement benefits, professional athletes who win in international sports competitions shall, upon reaching the age of 50 shall receive the following retirement benefits: For individual events – a lifetime monthly pension of at least P15,000 for the individual winner; and for team sports events – a lifetime monthly pension of at least P10,000 for each member team.
Upon the death of the professional Filipino athlete, the primary beneficiaries shall be entitled to a lump sum death benefit of P30,000 to cover funeral services/expenses.
The benefits provided under the Act shall retroact to all living professional athletes who, prior to the enactment of this Act, have won in any international professional sports competition, upon compliance with the requirements that shall be provided by the GAB in its Implementing Rules and Regulations.
The adjustment in retirement benefits provided under the Act may be authorized, subject to the approval of the President, upon the joint recommendation of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and the GAB Chairman, based on studies, consultations and public hearings with relevant agencies, entities and concerned athletes or coaches.
During the deliberation of the bill, Rep. Romeo Acop (2nd District, Antipolo City) asked GAB, through its chairman, Abraham Kahlil Mitra, about the estimated amount of fund which would be used for health care, retirement and deaths benefits of the athletes; GAB statistics regarding number of current professional athletes; and the number of professional athletes who won in international competitions.
“If we don’t know the average number of professional Filipino athletes who will win in international competitions, then we will not be able to compute the amount of funds for the proposed benefits,” Acop said.
Acop likewise proposed the inclusion of professional athletes who will win in local competitions.
Meanwhile, Rep. Rodel Batocabe (Party-list, AKO BICOL) said there is a need to pass first House Bill 4843, which seeks to strengthen the GAB because GAB is not adequately mandated to implement the provisions of HB 299.
GAB, as well as PCSO and PhilHealth have expressed their full support for the approval of HB 4843.