SENATOR Francis Tolentino expressed concern over the departure of some of the country’s finest homegrown athletes who decided to play for other countries amid the alleged lack of financial support from the government.

/ 17 November 2021

During plenary deliberations for the proposed P375 million budget of the Philippine Sports Commission, Tolentino cited the need for a program to prevent the further poaching of local athletes following the recent defections of golfer Yuka Saso and chess grandmaster Wesley So.

Paano natin matitigil ito? Is there a program reflective in the budget of PSC to prevent poaching? Is there a Balik Pilipinong Atleta Program?” said Tolentino

Saso, who was born of a Filipino mother and a Japanese father, bagged this year’s U.S. Open Golf Championship and represented the country in the recently concluded 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

But Saso, currently ranked no. 6 in the world, earlier this month announced that she has chosen Japanese citizenship and will play for Japan. Under Japanese nationality law, dual citizens like Saso must select their nationality by the age of 22. 

Meanwhile, So, a native of Bacoor City, Cavite became the country’s youngest chess grandmaster in 2008 at the age of 14. He has become an American citizen and has been competing for the US. 

He has since been playing for the US and become a US  citizen last February 26, 2021.

Tolentino warned that “these poaching practices” by other rich countries of Filipino athletes “can happen again,” noting the limited incentives being given by the PSC to our athletes. 

The senator also cited the case of several cagers from the Philippine Basketball Association, some of whom were even members of the national team who decided to play for other professional leagues overseas, such as Japan.

Tolentino also suggested that the PSC should spearhead more collaborative efforts with other countries to stop the exodus of our top athletes.