(STAR) By Abac Cordero - There’s one big lesson learned following the Philippines’ disastrous sixth place finish in the 24th Southeast Asia Games in Thailand: You can’t do more with less.

“You want medals? Let’s pay the price,” said Bacolod Rep. Monico Puentevella yesterday after the Filipinos, the 2005 overall champions, finished way below expectations.

At sixth, it was the worst finish for the Philippines in the SEA Games since 1977. It might stay that way, or even get worse, if support from the government doesn’t come soon.

Thailand, the host, ran away with the overall crown with 183 gold, 123 silver and 102 bronze medals. Next came Malaysia (67-52-96), Vietnam (64-58-82), Indonesia (56-64-83), Singapore (43-42-41), Philippines (41-91-96), Myanmar (14-26-47), Laos (5-7-32), Cambodia (2-5-11) and Brunei (1-1-4).

“Now, the Games are over. Now, it can be told. We deserve the position we got in this SEA Games. This is a wake-up call that needs to jolt us all,” said Puentevella.

After the Philippines nailed the overall crown in 2005, the Philippine Sports Commission, the government’s funding arm in sports, faced a drastic budget cut.

“We received the lowest (sports) budget since the PSC was created in 1990 as reward to our victorious athletes when we won the overall championship here two years ago.

“From over P100 million the PSC was given only P25 million two years ago. Then it became P108 last year,” added Puentevella, a former PSC commissioner.

He said the athletes are not to blame, but the politicians who have taken sports, or at least its budget, for granted through the years.

“Don’t blame the athletes. The medals won’t come if we don’t have the budget for training, equipment, infrastructure, foreign exposure and genuine grassroots program,” he said.

“Nothing will happen to us. Let’s put our money where our mouth is. We have all the master plans in the world since time immemorial. No money, no medals. It’s as simple as that.”

Puentevella said according to the proposed budget for 2008, the PSC is bound to receive P260 million as it prepares for the Beijing Olympics.

“If we pass the national budget next month it will be the biggest one — thanks to Budget Secretary Nonoy Andaya. I hope we pass this new budget,” Puentevella added.

The Bacolod lawmaker said swimmer Miguel Molina being named Best Male Athlete with four gold medals in Thailand is proof that the Filipinos are ready to conquer the odds.

“If Miguel Molina is the best athlete throughout the Asean region then we can do it. It’s time to support our beleaguered athletes,” said Puentevella.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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