MANILA, APRIL 22, 2007
(STAR) The 2007 Palarong Pambansa unfolds today in Koronadal, South Cotabato, with the country’s best and brightest student athletes from all 17 regions battling it out for pride, glory and a chance to make it to the national pool.

Philippine Sports Commission chairman William "Butch" Ramirez, who hails from Davao, will represent President Arroyo in the opening ceremonies at the South Cotabato Sports Complex.

The traditional parade of participating delegations and the lighting of the symbolic urn highlight the opening ceremonies of the games gathering around 10,000 athletes, coaches and officials.

"It’s all systems go and all the athletes are raring to go," said Len Toledo, who chairs the Department of Education’s Palaro secretariat.

Toledo said 18 sporting events will be played in the secondary level including indigenous arnis, which will debut this year as a regular sport after it was introduced in the 2006 Naga Palaro as a demo event.

Seventeen disciplines, including basketball, are listed in the elementary sports calendar.

Basketball has been re-included in the calendar after the country’s suspension in international play was lifted by the International Basketball Federation.

Events to be played are swimming, track and field, taekwondo, chess, football, volleyball, sepak takraw, table tennis, lawn tennis, badminton, gymnastics, dancesport, baseball, archery and softball.

Host Mayor Fernando Miguel welcomed the participants in the weeklong event.

"We want to prove that a young city as ours can make its own place not only in the corporate world but in sports as well," said Miguel in his short message in the Palaro website.

But "age cheating" and "identity switching" could spoil everything similar to what happened in last year’s Naga edition where 16 athletes were found to have committed such offense.

The DepEd has put safety nets to prevent these incidents from happening again.

The DepEd has required participants to submit birth certificates authenticated by the National Statistics Office and signed not only by their coaches and advisers but also the district superintendents and principals, who would be held accountable should there be violators in their delegation.

"We have implemented stricter guidelines because we don’t want these issues to occur again," said Toledo.

Another potential problem is the searing temperature, which caused 50 cases of heat stroke during the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao regional athletic meet last month in neighboring Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

"We have a medical team deployed in key areas. We’ll be ready," said Toledo, who briefed the combined medical staff of the host city and the DepEd early this month to ensure the health of all concerned. –Joey Villar

People’s brigade to secure Palaro guests By Ramil Bajo The Philippine Star 04/22/2007

Koronadal City – The city government has formed a "people’s brigade" to secure the safety of an estimated 12,000 people, including athletes and coaches who arrived here to participate in the country’s biggest annual sports event, the Palarong Pambansa 2007.

This city is hosting this year’s weeklong Palarong Pambansa. The games will start today and will end on April 28.

President Arroyo was invited as guest speaker but city officials said yesterday that no confirmation was given by Malacañang if she is gracing the event.

City Mayor Fernando Miguel said the creation of the people’s brigade is part of the city’s "strong security plan" to ensure the safety of Palarong Pambansa delegates from the country’s 17 regions.

"Delegates have nothing to worry. The entire city is flooded with members of the people’s brigade. Their billeting centers have also been guarded. They can roam around the city without worrying about their safety," Miguel told The STAR in a cellphone interview.

Miguel said he already ordered Superintendent Florendo Quidilla, the city police chief, to implement tight monitoring in streets, police visibility and round-the-clock patrol in various parts, especially entertainment places, in the city.

"Don’t be surprised if you see people wearing green T-shirts in the streets. They are members of the people’s brigade. Just approach them if you have problems and they will assist you," Miguel said.

He added that the brigade’s members are under instruction to always extend "courtesy" and "assistance" to the city’s athletes and visitors from other places.

"I am very confident about the safety of the delegates here because we have planned all the necessary security measures for the overall safety of the delegates," said Miguel, who was criticized by his political enemies for hiring members of the brigade.

South Cotabato deputy police director Superintendent Datu Nasser Pendatun said a contingent of policemen from the police regional mobile group was deployed to augment security measures implemented by the city police office.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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