It was in 1994 when Davao City’s sports media decided to band together and form the Davao Sportswriters Association (DSA). The late Ferdinand “Batman” Lintuan of ABC 5 was elected as DSA’s first charter president and I served as his vice president whilst writing for the now defunct Daily San Pedro Express.

Among DSA’s original members are Peryodiko Dabaw’s Charles Raymond Maxey (who is now Commissioner of the Philippine Sports Commission), SPEX’S Mo Billacura (now a Canadian resident and Edge Davao columnist) and Ed Fernandez (now PSC Mindanao director).

There were also the late Dean of Davao sports journalism Ramon “Daddy Ram” Maxey (Charles’ father) and fellow sportswriting legend Vic Sai, and the reverred maestro of Davao photojournalism Tatay Rene Lumawag. 

DSA was at the forefront of Davao City’s dream of building a sports complex from way back in those days. I remember how passionately we wrote to vie for the Palarong Pambansa, to push for the allocation of budget for a sports complex. We harbored the common dream of every Dabawenyo athlete and coach. Every afternoon, at the old PTA Sports Complex, we prayed that someday the dream will become a reality.

Last April when Davao City finally became host to the Palarong Pambansa, my heart skipped a beat. I must admit that after having seen the Davao City Sports Complex dream come to reality at the UP Mindanao campus, I told myself the long wait is over.

I had to be honest though, when the brand new track oval wasn’t used for athletics in the Palarong Pambansa, I thought “why?”  And then I heard some whispers that it did not pass the standards of the Philippine Amateur Track and Field Association (PATAFA). 

Last week, I found some of the answers after talking to some of the people who are experts in sports and its facilities. The track oval did not conform to standards and there were no concessions for throwing and jumping events. Instead, a football pitch was built in the middle of the field. 

I have nothing against building a football pitch and in the process, ending up with a track oval with “double bend” specifications. I have explained this in a special report that came out on this paper on Monday. Here’s the link if you missed it.

UP Mindanao answered with a very lengthy statement on Tuesday belying the report. It said that in part: “Regarding claims that the track oval facility “did not pass the standards of the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF),” the university would like to point out that the oval was just completed last 13 March 2019; and given that an IAAF certification requires a fee of considerable amount (approximately P1.5 million), the university has not attempted to have the track oval certified because it does not yet have the financial resources to do so. Hence, any claims that “for the sports complex to host athletics event for either the Palarong Pambansa or the Southeast Asian Games, it has to be tweaked to standards” is therefore pure speculation at this point. 

The university would also like to assure the public that the contractor of the civil works of the oval has complied with IAAF specifications as stipulated in the IAAF Track and Field Manual 2008 edition and that the installer of synthetic track is certified as a service provider by the IAAF. Every phase in the site preparation and actual installation of the track oval has been subjected to rigorous measurements in line with the said standards.”
Let me point this out. The question is simple: Is it compliant? It’s either a “yes” or a “no.”

Why was the track oval not used for the Palarong Pambansa is one indication. If the PATAFA, which reportedly said it did not pass their standards, would not use your brand new track oval, there must be something wrong. Prudence dictates that if you contract somebody to do a job for you, you must ascertain if he did it right according to standards before you accept it in a turnover which signifies the completion of the contract. If there is any doubt, you can easily go to a referee, in this case the PATAFA which is the member federation of the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF). As a member federation of the IAAF, the PATAFA is authorized to come up with its own certification process. No need to go to IAAF.

So my suggestion is that instead of arguing on this matter, it is best to ask the PATAFA to make an evaluation of the existing track oval. This is based on the IAAF Certification System Procedures Manual updated in 2019 under Section 2.1.5, “Some IAAF Member Federations have already put technical certification procedures in place that regulate and certify facilities in their own countries. Where these procedures are considered adequate, IAAF may recognise certificates issued by these Member Federations as adequate for issue of certificates, but IAAF reserves the right to re-evaluate such facilities.” This means the PATAFA, like what it did with the UM athletics facility, may certify compliance based on its standards as IAAF member-federation. 

UP Mindanao said it has not sought an IAAF certification yet as the facilities for throwing and jumping are not yet completed. The cost for certification, it claimed, is approximately P1.5 million.

I checked the IAAF Certification procedures and it says that a certification for Class 1 status is USD10,000 or roughly P508,550 for IAAF Class 1 Athletics Facility Certificate (For competition facilities conforming in all respects with the requirements of IAAF Competition Rule 140. It is a full certificate covering all technical aspects of the facility) and USD 2,000 for IAAF Class 2 Athletics Facility Certificate (For competition facilities in which the in-situ tests for compliance with the IAAF Track and Runway Synthetic Surface Testing Specifications have not been performed but where the synthetic surface has a valid IAAF Product Certificate and where the facility conforms to the stringent requirements for accurate measurement contained in IAAF Competition Rules) or roughly P101,705.

It also confuses me why the jumping and throwing areas, which are necessary concessions in athletics facilities, were said to be part of another phase of construction. Why separate what is part and parcel of one? Why was there a warmup rubberized four-lane track constructed instead of jumping and throwing sections? That warmup track can easily have long jump and triple jump concessions.

Granting that the jumping concessions are still to be constructed as part of different specs, which to me is strange, can we have the completed track oval measured by PATAFA including its steeplechase jump?

Now, if UP-Min allows for it for everyone’s peace of mind–including that of our dead sportswriters society Batman, Daddy Ram, Nong Vic and Tatay Rene–let’s have it evaluated by PATAFA.