[PHOTO AT LEFT - Noynoy Aquino]

MANILA, MAY 14, 2010 (STAR) By Abac Cordero - Noynoy Aquino’s impending victory in the presidential race is like a whiff of fresh air for Philippine sports.

No less than Jose “Peping” Cojuangco Jr., the president of the Philippine Olympic Committee who happens to be the uncle of the soon-to-be-proclaimed President of the Republic, yesterday said with Aquino at the helm, it’s time to be optimistic.

“I’m very hopeful that we can look forward to a very bright future in sports,” said the POC chief, an old hand in Philippine politics. He became president of the local Olympic body in 2004 and two years ago was given another term that ends in 2012.

Cojuangco said the 50-year-old Aquino, only son of former Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. and former President Corazon C. Aquino, is a lover of sports.

“He understands sports and has interest in sports. That’s why sports will not be taken for granted under his administration,” said Cojuangco, who believes that under Aquino’s leadership it’s not going to be that difficult to forge unity in sports.

“That’s the most important thing. We must put the right people, and so we can work as a group, and work as one. We must help each other,” said the POC president.

Cojuangco has been at odds with the current chairman of the Philippine Sports Commission, former Manila congressman and RP special envoy to China, Harry Angping, who was appointed as PSC chief by President Arroyo last year.

The term of PSC chairman, and that of his four commissioners, is co-terminus with that of the President’s, and Cojuangco expects major changes in the PSC structure as soon as Aquino takes his oath as the country’s 15th President.

Cojuangco said it’s about time that the POC and heads of the close to 40 national sports associations (NSAs) are given a say in the selection of the PSC chairman and his commissioners.

“I have suggested it before. We need to make sure that whoever is appointed to the PSC will have understanding with those at the POC. We must ensure a harmonious relationship between the PSC and the POC,” said Cojuangco.

Over DZsr’s weekly radio program “POC Hour,” Cojuangco also said he might ask the new President to name a PSC chief who already knows the ins and out of RP sports.

“That I will request from Noynoy. That he put somebody who no longer needs to go through a getting-to-know-you stage. He should be someone who already knows how to run the programs and projects in Philippine sports,” he said.

So far, a couple of names have cropped up as candidates, and they include Manny Lopez, vice president of the Amateur Boxing Association of the Philippines, Mark Joseph, head of the RP swimming group. The list will grow in the coming days.

Philip Juico, who served as PSC chairman from 1996 to 1998, may also be considered for reappointment.

“What’s important is someone who can work harmoniously with the POC,” said Cojuangco. “We must forget any differences during the recent campaign and think of unification. Then sports will be part of that move.”

Jose Romasanta, POC spokesperson, is on the same page.

“I agree with the POC president. There are so many people who understand Philippine sports, people who are sincere and ready to help. We’re not lacking when it comes to these qualities,” he said.

“But what was forgotten in the past is the value of sports in nation-building. We’ve lagged behind, and now is the time to look forward. Our country has a lot of priorities to attend to, but sports must not be taken for granted,” Romasanta said.

The POC spokesman is the former head of the Project Gintong Alay (under the Cory Aquino administration), and because of his experience, it won’t be any surprise if he ends up as the next PSC chairman.

The 16th Asian Games is six months away, and Cojuangco welcomed the changes that’s about to happen in the PSC leadership. He shrugged off statements that the changes may affect the morale of the Filipino athletes.

“Definitely it will have an effect but I’m sure that it will be for the better. As it is, we’re not sure about the funding of our athletes to the Asian Games in Guangzhou, China but once the appointments in the PSC come in, I can assure the entire Philippine delegation of a better future.”

As far as Cojuangco is concerned, everything looks rosy for Philippine sports.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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