President Rodrigo Duterte (MNS photo)

MANILA, Aug 24 (Mabuhay) — After the Philippine team returned from Tokyo with its best Olympic finish with four medals, President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday expressed confidence that Filipino athletes will get better and stronger in securing “more victories” in the future.

Duterte made this remark as he led the awarding of incentives to Filipino Olympians, including the country’s first ever Olympic gold medalist Hidilyn Diaz, at the Rizal Hall in Malacañan Palace.

“I congratulate you once again for bringing pride and honor to the country and for uplifting the spirit of Filipinos amidst the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said in his speech.

He also described as “truly inspiring” the hard work, dedication, and sportsmanship the Filipino athletes showed even amid the challenges in their training and competitions and looked forward to their further success.

“I am confident that you will get better and stronger in securing more victories in the future. Your success will continue to motivate many aspiring athletes and our Filipino youth to channel their energies into sports and other productive activities keeping them away from the harmful vices,” he added.

Duterte said the strength and excellence of the country’s athletes in the international sports arena demonstrate the Filipino spirit and resilience as well as the determination to succeed.

“Our Tokyo 2020 medalists and Olympians truly embody our greatness as a people and as a nation,” he said.

Duterte thanked the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) and the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) for their “unwavering” support and strong efforts in securing that the country’s athletes are ready to compete at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

He assured that the government remains committed in providing full support to Filipino athletes.

Duterte also enjoined the POC, PSC, and other sports bodies to continue providing “much-needed” assistance to keep athletes on top of their game and help them become all-time greats.

He also congratulated Japanese Ambassador to the Philippines Kazuhiko Koshikawa for the successful hosting of the 2020 Olympics and hoped that the upcoming 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo would also become a “resounding success”.

Diaz, who won it all in women’s weightlifting, was bestowed with the Presidential Medal of Merit and received PHP10 million as mandated by law, PHP5 million for breaking the Olympic record from PSC and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor), an additional PHP3 million from the Office of the President (OP), and a house and lot in Zamboanga City.

Silver medalists Nesthy Petecio (women’s boxing) and Carlos Paalam (men’s boxing) and bronze medalist Eumir Marcial (men’s boxing) were awarded the Order of Lapu-Lapu with the rank of Kamagi.

Petecio and Paalam each got PHP5 million as mandated by law and an additional PHP2 million from Duterte’s office while Marcial received PHP2 million as mandated by law and an additional PHP1 million from OP.

Olympian Mansueto Onyok Velasco (men’s boxing) also received PHP500,000 after admitting that he failed to receive all the incentives pledged to him when he won a silver medal during the Atlanta Olympics in 1996.

Other Olympians who did not win medals also received presidential citations and cash rewards worth PHP200,000 each from OP.

‘Wash your hands’

Meanwhile, Duterte reminded guests present at the event to wash after shaking hands with others as a precaution against Covid-19.

“With the pandemic spreading like a wildfire in the country and everybody taking precautions, it would not be a discourteous act to wash your hands even in front of the person you have shook hands because it’s the norm of the day,” he said.

He also joked about his decision to opt out from wearing a face mask while delivering his speech, noting he would pin the blame on his guests if he were to contract the respiratory disease.

“Kung mamatay ako dahil sa inyo ngayong hapon na ito, kayo ang nagdamay sa akin (If I die this afternoon, it would be your fault),” he quipped.

Duterte also cited the Philippine sports officials led by PSC chairman William “Butch” Ramirez and POC president Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino for their contribution to the country’s successful campaign in Tokyo Olympics. (MNS)

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