MANILA, Philippines—Sarangani Rep. Manny Pacquiao, the star athlete who dreams of being President, has made boxing, breasts and health as his priorities in Congress.
Pacquiao, a second-term lawmaker, has so far filed five bills in the House of Representatives.
The measures he principally authored seek to create a boxing commission, put up breast care centers in every region, establish a community fitness center in every barangay (village), build a provincial hospital in Sarangani, and amend the Philippine Sports Commission act.
For bills to have a greater chance of being passed in Congress, its authors must make sure they are present in committee and plenary hearings to push and fight for them.
Of the bills Pacquiao recently filed, the breast care center measure is the one that’s not new for him, since he had authored a similar bill in the 15th Congress in 2010. It stayed stuck at the health committee level.
In the bill, he sought the creation of a breast care center in every region to spearhead the fight against breast cancer.
He noted that based on data from the Department of Health, breast cancer ranks second among the most common cancers, and ranks first among Filipino women. It is also the third-most common cancer worldwide and the most common among women.
More education vs breast cancer
More education about this condition is needed to combat the illness, Pacquiao’s explanatory note to the bill states. The possibility of curing it would be higher when detected early, he said.
“Hence, public awareness and education is vital in the fight against breast cancer. Information is our primary weapon and it is on this that we must focus our efforts,” he added.
The breast care centers he envisions would lead the sustained information campaign to raise the public’s awareness level about breast cancer. It would provide affordable services to fight and cure the disease, and would be equipped with the necessary tools.
The center would also work with the Department of Education to make sure that the symptoms and causes of the disease are regularly discussed as part of the high school curriculum.
Not surprisingly, Pacquiao is also looking after the welfare of boxers with his proposal to create the boxing commission.
The commission would be tasked to provide procedures to protect boxers from physical and financial exploitation, and provide those who compete and win in international matches with comprehensive health care benefits, alternative livelihood programs, a life insurance system, and reliable death benefits.
It would also be required to establish rules related to boxing, and set the direction for the sport to develop world-class boxers who will bring honor to the country.
Pacquiao noted that while giving honor to the country, many of the Filipino boxers who fight internationally had met untimely deaths because of the absence of adequate medical services, while others face retirement without some form of pension or financial assistance, and access to medical care.
Community fitness centers
Another bill he filed seeks to have fitter Filipinos through the community fitness centers.
Under his measure, these centers in every barangay would promote physical education, wellness, and sports activities. These would be staffed by full-time fitness instructors who will be paid by the municipal or city health office.
“The collective health of the people affects to a great extent the success of its overall socio-economic development,” he said.
The Sarangani lawmaker also wants to put up a provincial hospital in his province, with at least 100 beds. He seeks to allocate P200 million for the project, which would be included in the national budget.
He also seeks to amend the charter of the Philippine Sports Commission.
He pointed at legal ambiguities that should be clarified, such as the computation of the commission’s actual share of funds from other government agencies. The terms of commissioners must be fixed as well, and their mission redefined to ensure proper coordination with stakeholders, he said.
National athletes and coaches must also be properly represented in formulating national policies, programs and projects by the Commission so that these would be more effective and successful.
Pacquiao is on his second term in Congress. But even as he serves as lawmaker, he continues to fight in blockbuster matches abroad. His training time cuts into his official work schedule. He and Negros Occidental Rep. Julio Ledesma IV were the top absentees in the 15th congress.