MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Fresh from ending Peping Cojuangco's 13-year reign as Philippine Olympic Committe (POC) president last February 23, Ricky Vargas is already implementing his plan to unite the National Sports Associations of the Philippines.
Vargas, together with his running mate for POC chairman Bambol Tolentino, will be recognized in their first board meeting on Monday, March 5, where the turnover rights will also take place.
With the 2018 Asian Games and the Philippines' hosting of the 2019 Southeast Asian Games drawing near, Vargas has already a lot of ideas in his mind that will pave the way for his tackling existing issues in Philippine sports.
First things first
"You know I’d get very scared when I'm told that," says Vargas when everyone expects him to be the beacon of hope in uniting the NSAs.
Despite handling the tremendous pressure, Vargas' first plan of action is creating an arbitration and dispute committee that will be able to reconcile the disputing parties of each NSA.
"I'd like to create an arbitration and dispute committee because there is a lot of dispute among the NSAs that we would need to be able to settle and I would like to do that right away and we're moving towards that," said Vargas.
"I'd like to get a baseline of what we have in the POC in terms of the financials in terms of the records and what we need to do to move forward."
Vargas traces the Philippines' poor SEA Games performance to NSAs' disputes as the country has skidded to it worst performance since 1999. (READ: Philippines crashes to its worst SEA Games finish since 1999)
The disunity of the NSAs hinders the POC and the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) from finding the best athletes and supporting them in their international careers.
"Ang masakit lang (What's hurting) is the dispute in the NSAs. When there are disputes in the NSAs we cannot find the best athletes we need to go beyond the disputes and look for the best athletes that can actually represent our country and fight for our country," said Vargas.
In line with his call for unity, Vargas believes that the empowerment of the NSAs could also be achieved by working together with the government, the POC officials and the athletes themselves.
Vargas has 6 months left before the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta and around a year left before the Philippines will host the 2019 SEA Games.
As the hosts, Philippines is expected to finish on top place of the team standings, putting pressure on the athletes to improve in a year's time.
Vargas plans to be more hands on with the athletes by being able to talk to each and everyone of them in order to motivate them to do well and believe in the "healing" of Philippine sports.
"I would also like to meet each and every athlete. I'd like to be able to motivate them to fight for our country hindi lang puso, buong puso! Yan ang sinsabi ko: ‘Ilagay na natin ang buong puso natin sa paglaban para sa bansa'," said Vargas.
(It's not only heart, but the whole heart! That's what I have been saying: 'let us put our whole heart in the fight for our country.')
Vargas will be initiating talks with PSC chairman Butch Ramirez and Manila SEA Games organizing committe chairman Alan Peter Cayetano in order to understand the existing plans and programs for the Asian Games and 2019 SEA Games.
"I will only be as confident (in our Asian Games and SEA Games performances) as the NSAs say that they have athletes that can compete. I have not seen the programs, but I have confidence that if we allow the NSAs to do what they have to do in training and support them. We will have a good harvest."
Hope for accreditation
In the recent years, many unaccredited sport organizations in the Philippines have excelled in international competitions without the government support. At the start of his term, Vargas has already took notice of these sports such as powerlifting, obstacle course and jiu-jitsu to name a few.
"I just met the sport called powerlifting. I'm so amazed at the awardee, the lady (Veronica Ompod) and she's an Asian champion. I'd like to get to know more about powerlifting. I met the sport called obstacle course and the athletes, they're excellent!," said Vargas.
"I understand that jiu-jitsu also has a very good chance for medals and we do have a very good jiu-jitsu mentor (Alvin Aguilar) who trains not only here but overseas. In jiu-jitsu, he is a very recognized sensei."
With more medal sports coming to Vargas' attention, he intends to hone the talents of these athletes by accrediting their respective national organizations.
"So these are the types of things that we should take a look at and see where these talents are coming from and hopefully possible gold medals." – Rappler.com
*Editor's Note: The jiu-jitsu mentor whom Vargas referred to was Filipino Alvin Aguilar not Stephen Kamphius.
More commonly known as “Bee”, Beatrice is a multimedia sports reporter for Rappler, who covers Phillippine sports governance, national teams, football and the UAAP. Stay tuned for her news and features on Philippine sports and videos like the Rappler Athlete’s Corner and Rappler Sports Timeout.