President Rodrigo Duterte will be on hand to witness Gilas Pilipinas battle Italy in their FIBA World Cup opener on August 31 in Foshan, China.
The announcement was made Wednesday afternoon, less than a day after Duterte opined that the Philippines will not stand a chance against the 13th-best team in the world, adding insults to their opponents.
"Walang tayo diyan. China na lang tayo magpusta. Wala talaga tayo. We will lose dito sa Italian, ang lalaki kaya niyang mga gagong 'yan," Duterte said to a laughing audience at Malacañang Tuesday evening.
According to Senator Bong Go, Duterte's former special assistant, the chief executive received an invite from Chinese Pres. Xi Jinping to attend the World Cup opening ceremony in Beijing on August 30.
He will then head to Foshan to watch the first game of world no. 31 Gilas.
Duterte will head to the East Asian country for a bilateral meeting with the Chinese.
Go, who is also a special adviser to Gilas, shared a different view from his former boss, citing the importance of the opener.
"If we win against Italy, we will have a large chance of advancing to the second round. With the presence of our President, it will be a morale booster for [Gilas]," said the lawmaker at the Senate. "We are quick and smart. I believe in our team."
SEA Games meeting
Go, the head of the Senate Committee on Sports, hosted an organizational meeting with the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC), Philippine Olympic Committee (POC), Philippine South East Asian Games Organizing Committee (PHISGOC), and the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) Wednesday morning.
Present at the meeting were the agencies' heads, including PSC Chairman William Ramirez and several of its commissioners, POC President Abraham Tolentino, PHISGOC COO Ramon Suzara, and BCDA Pres. and CEO Vivencio Dizon.
The heads assured to the upper chamber that the hosting of the Southeast Asian Games later this year will push through. Dizon also added that the venues at New Clark City in Capas, Tarlac will be operational by the end of the month.
Venues at the site will be permanently used for training following the biennial sporting meet, with the Aquatics Center and Athletics Stadium open for Filipino athletes.
The Athlete's Village, which houses 521 units, will be used as permanent living quarters starting 2020.
A parcel of land for the proposed National Academy of Sports for High School, located near the two venues, has already been set aside, assured Dizon.
More venues will also be built after the ASEAN Para Games in January, with a velodrome, a football stadium, and a multi-purpose arena for basketball and volleyball set to rise.
Ramirez meanwhile revealed that aside from organizing games until the secondary level with the Batang Pinoy tournament and the Palarong Pambansa, the PSC has partnered with the Commission on Higher Education to help with collegiate sports as well.
"If we can partner with basic school sports and tertiary sports, we can strengthen the grassroots sports program," said Ramirez.