LINGAYEN, PANGASINAN, MAY 18, 2012 (PHILSTAR) By Eva Visperas (PHOTO -President Aquino coughs as he addresses the crowd during the opening of the Palarong Pambansa in Lingayen, Pangasinan last week. JONJON VICENCIO)

A bad cough repeatedly interrupted President Aquino’s speech during the opening of the Palarong Pambansa 2012 at the Narciso Ramos Sports and Civic Center here.

About 30,000 athletes and delegates are taking part in this year’s biggest sports competition.

In his speech, the President said the national government would continue to support Philippine sports, adding the Department of Education (DepEd) has allocated more than P200 million for this year’s Palaro.

But as he continued with his message, Aquino coughed for a moment, prompting him to joke that it’s time for him to join the athletes’ practice sessions to improve his health.

He then continued with his speech but for the third time, Aquino almost choked due to incessant cough.

He again joked that perhaps someone special was thinking of him, eliciting laughter from the crowd.

The President was elated with the warm welcome given to him by thousands of Pangasinenses, including former President Fidel Ramos and local officials led by Gov. Amado Espino Jr.

Aquino said the Palarong Pambansa has served as the biggest stage to showcase the strengths of athletes and hone their skills for local and international competitions.

The Palarong Pambansa has produced well-known Filipino athletes like Lydia de Vega and Elma Muros in athletics, Danny Ildefonso and Marlu Aquino in basketball, Susan Papa and Eric Buhain in swimming, Chieffy Caligdong and Christopher Camcam of the Azkals in football.

[PHOTO -President Aquino holds the ceremonial torch during the opening of the Palarong Pambansa 2012 in Lingayen, Pangasinan last week. JONJON VICENCIO]

Aquino assured proponents of Philippine sports of continued government support to ensure that local athletes get the training and equipment they deserve to make it in the international sports arena.

Aside from setting aside P200 million from the DepEd’s budget, the Philippine Sports Commission has laid down the national plan for sports - the 2011-2016 Philippine Sports Roadmap.

According to Aquino, this roadmap has a “focus sports policy” geared toward the development of choice sports such as boxing, taekwondo, athletics, swimming, wushu, archery, wrestling, bowling, weightlifting and billiards.

He said the P200 million representing 33 percent of annual remittances from the National Sports Development Fund will be used to fund the roadmap.

This is the second time Pangasinan is hosting the Palarong Pambansa after 1995. - Delon Porcalla, Cesar Ramirez

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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