Thursday, January 30, 2014

Health care, retirement and death benefits for champion Filipino athletes sought

A lawmaker is seeking the granting of health care, retirement and death benefits to professional Filipino athletes who have given the country honor, glory and pride by winning in world championship titles in international sports competitions or equally prestigious international championship games.

The proposal is embodied in House Bill 3707 or the proposed "Professional Filipino Athletes Health Care, Retirement and Death Benefits Act," principally authored by Rep. Estrellita "Ging" Suansing (1st District, Nueva Ecija).

Suansing said most sports are physical in nature and many Filipino athletes risk their lives to become champions.

"Unlike other career professionals, the career lifespan of a professional athlete is short. Many do not reach the age of 40 before retiring, giving way to the much stronger and younger athletes. Some are forced to retire because they have passed the height of their careers, while others are just given bad breaks in life after winning a title," Suansing said.

She cited the cases of former Filipino world boxing champions Rolando Navarette, Luisito Espinosa and Z. Gorres who became comatose after a successful fight.

"Navarette is reduced to the life of a pauper, dependent on charitable gestures from his countrymen for his existence and medical expenses. Luisito Espinosa is forced to fight mediocre fights just so he could survive living in the United States. Z. Gorres is fortunate that many generous persons contributed to shoulder some of the medical bills he incurred," Suansing said.

Suansing said these champions should not have to endure this, adding that at in their twilight years, the country, which they had given honor, glory and pride to, must be at least able to provide them with some kind of support.

"While many of them are greatly compensated by the prize they win in these competitions, they deserve more than just a 'hero's welcome,' crowd adulation and a pat on the back for a job well done," Suansing said.

Under the measure, professional Filipino athletes who immediately win in any international professional sports competition shall be covered by the National Health Insurance Program of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (Philhealth), through a special program sponsored by the Games and Amusement Board (GAB), which will provide the required local government premium counterpart to be directly remitted to the Philhealth.

Upon reaching the age of fifty (50), the athlete should become an honorary member of the program, subject to existing rules and regulations of the Philhealth.

In case of hospitalization of the professional Filipino athlete in any hospital or clinic, any amount in excess of the Philhealth benefit shall be shouldered by the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) under its Individual Medical Assistance Program (IMAP).

The bill provides a lifetime monthly pension of at least P15,000 for the individual winner, while those in team sports events shall be entitled to P10,000 for each team member.

Athletes who are actively employed at the time they reach the age of 50 and have availed of the retirement benefits under this Act may continue with such employment.

The measure also provides death benefits in the amount of P30,000 to cover funeral services/expenses which shall be claimed by the primary beneficiaries of the athlete such as the legitimate spouse, legitimate or illegitimate children.

The benefits under the bill shall retroact to all living professional Filipinos athletes who have won in any international professional sports competition. The adjustment in retirement benefits may be authorized subject to the approval of the President.

The GAB will be directed to promulgate and issue the implementing rules and regulation of the Act.
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