Developing sports programs at the grass-roots level and tapping the private sector are major factors in improving the Philippines standing in international sports competitions, Vice President Jejomar Binay said Friday night.

“Let us find new strength in grass-roots programs and open avenues with the private sector to fill the gaps that hamper our champions,” Binay said during the sports summit between the Philippine Sports Commission and local government units at the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex.

“I believe that there is a lot that local government officials could do to strengthen and develop sports development in the country, especially at the grass-roots level,” the Vice President said.

Binay said that the different national sports associations in the country should also increase cooperation with the private sector to secure more funds from sponsors.

“Many events such as boxing, taekwondo and basketball enjoy staunch support from top firms and tycoons, and our athletes in these sports continue to well in regional and international competition.If they can fund sports teams to sell their products, there is no reason why they cannot fund teams that represent our spirit, our identity and our country in the spirit of building peace and goodwill among nations,” he said.

Binay cited as an example the case of the Philippine Azkals, whose manager, Dan Palami, at the start spent his own money to fund the training of the football team.

The Azkals are now top endorsers of various products.

“Kung sa ngayon, ang Philippine Azkals ay kilala sa buong bansa at ang kanilang mga larawan ay tanaw sa EDSA at sa telebisyon, tandaan po natin na sila ay nagsimula sa wala,” Binay said.

“Mismo ang kanilang team manager na si Dan Palami pa ang gumastos para dagdagan ang pondo ng kanilang programa. Sa halip na mangamba’t mabalisa, sila’y  nagpursiging magsanay at mag-ensayo. Tinuloy nila ang kanilang recruitment upang buhayin ang futbol sa ating bansa. At bunga ng kanilang pagod at kapatapatan sa kanilang adhikain,  dumating din ang tulong ng mga sponsors mula sa pribadong sector,” he added.

Moreover, the Vice President said that the Philippines should adopt the best practices from other nations’ sports programs that generate podium finishes and adjust them to suit the local sports environment.

“I believe that we can learn volumes from the Chinese Olympic Training System. Under their system, they create sports academies and hire talent scouts, psychologists and foreign coaches of established repute. In addition, they devote tremendous emphasis to sports that involve several events and which contain high medal counts. These include shooting, gymnastics, swimming, rowing and track and field,” Binay said.

The Vice President said that Filipino athletes have sacrificed much and should not bear the burden of overcoming the hurdles of Philippine sports development alone.

“Our athletes sacrifice more than just the time they spend training for their chance to shine.  They sacrifice the opportunity to spend more time with their families and friends. They build their jobs around their commitment to sports. They overcome ageing facilities and a lack of equipment with great heart and strong spirit, knowing they will never make a king’s ransom in exchange,” he said.

“They do their duty unfailingly each day and so we must match and if possible, exceed their valor by lending them real support,” he added.