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Buhain full of hopes to see the end of woes in Philippine swimming

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BATANGAS 1st District Congressman Eric Buhain pay visits with Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) to discuss important matters about the country’s growth and development in sports. The swimming legend is also the vice chairman of the Youth and Sports Development Committee in the House of Representatives. PSC Photo

Finally, a bridge over troubled waters.

Thus, quipped swimming legend and now Batangas 1st District Rep. Eric Buhain as he welcomed the FINA or the world governing body for swimming decision to plunge into murky waters that is the problematic Philippine swimming association affairs.

“And I believe our young and talented Filipino swimmers will soon see calm and crystal-clear waters at the end of the bridge, and get back into hauling golds out of the pool for our country,” said Buhain who can’t help getting a little emotional in hoping to finally see a positive end to the woes plaguing the sport where he literally spent the first two and a half decades of his life as a multi-titled national tanker.

Buhain, a first-termer and Vice Chairman of the Youth and Sports Development Committee in the House of Representatives, was sought for his reaction to the FINA (Federation Internationale de Natation) withdrawal of its recognition of the members of the Philippine Swimming Inc. (PSI) board headed by Lani Velasco while establishing a Stabilization Committee to run the PSI’s day-to-day operations.

The FINA stabilization committee to “conduct the proper and necessary amendments of the [PSI] Constitution and organize and conduct a new election.”

The FINA directive dated December 3 was signed by the international federation’s executive director Brent Nowicki and communicated via email to Velasco with the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) and the Philippine Sports Commission furnished with emailed copies. The FINA directive is effective immediately.

“I wholeheartedly welcome the FINA action on this matter, and my over-enthusiasm should be forgiven as I still see myself as a Filipino athlete who competes foremost for God and our country,” added Buhain, who won a total of 15 gold medals for the Philippines in the Southeast Asian Games including an unparallel dominance in five events — 100-meter breaststroke, 100-meter butterfly, 200-meter butterfly, 200-meter individual medley, and the 400-meter individual medley — of the 1991 edition.

“My hopes are very much afloat, and I thanked the Philippine Olympic Committee and the Philippine Sports Commission in supporting this FINA initiative to save swimming, the sport that is very much dear to me,” added Buhain, who co-founded the Congress of Philippine Aquatics. Inc. (COPA) with Olympians Pinky Brosas, Chito Rivera, Richard Luna, Darren Evangelista and Joel Esquivel.

Buhain (center) joins public schools students who participated in COPA’s programs and tournaments.

In the recent FINA directive to PSI head Velasco, the former stressed “The FINA Bureau discussed various complaints received by the FINA Office concerning matters of inter alia poor governance principles within your National Federation,” and “For this reason, and as a matter of last resort, the FINA Bureau has confirmed the implementation of a Stabilization Committee, as set out in C 10.6 of the FINA Constitution.”

Article C 10.6 of the FINA Constitution states that “The Bureau may under exceptional circumstances appoint a stabilization committee to the extent the executive body of a member fails to adhere to practices of good governance, transparency, financial accountability and stability, participation in FINA events, or puts at risk the organi[s]ation and development of Aquatics in their country.”

POC legal head Atty. Wharton Chan and deputy secretary general Valeriano “Bones” Floro and Bases Conversion Development Authority senior vice president Arrey Perez were named members of the stabilization committee.

“Effective immediately, the Stabilization Committee shall run all day-to-day operations of Philippine Swimming Inc. conduct the proper and necessary amendments of the Constitution and organize and conduct a new election. This means that any Philippine Swimming Inc. board members shall no longer be recognized as representatives (legal or otherwise) of Philippine Swimming Inc,” FINA stressed.

The FINA decision came after a barrage of complaints it received from stakeholders in Philippine swimming against PSI for various offenses detrimental to the country’s swim program and the welfare of many young Filipino swimmers.

The PSI has already agreed to a FINA directive in 2018 to amend its by-laws but didn’t heed the international federation (IF). The IF reiterated the same directive after the PSI conducted its elections last April but got the same negative response.

For his part, POC president Rep. Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino offered “This verdict just came down from the IF (FINA),” and “We’ll be heeding the IF instruction with the POC putting premium on protecting the athletes.”

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