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By Nick Giongco

President Rodrigo Duterte called on the Filipino athletes to step up to the plate once more after hosting the Southeast Asian Games medalists on Wednesday at Malacañang.

The occasion was marked by the awarding of the cash incentives to the 24 gold, 33 silver and 66 bronze medals brought home from Kuala Lumpur recently where the Philippines wound up sixth overall.

President Rodrigo Duterte, center, poses with the medalists of the 29th Southeast Asian Games during the awarding of cash incentives Wednesday at Malacañang. Joining Duterte and the athletes are DFA Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) president Peping Cojuangco, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, PSC chairman Butch Ramirez, and Presidential Adviser for Sports Dennis Uy. (Jay Ganzon | Manila Bulletin)

President Rodrigo Duterte, center, poses with the medalists of the 29th Southeast Asian Games during the awarding of cash incentives Wednesday at Malacañang. Joining Duterte and the athletes are DFA Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) president Peping Cojuangco, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, PSC chairman Butch Ramirez, and Presidential Adviser for Sports Dennis Uy. (Jay Ganzon | Manila Bulletin)

Over P25 million was given to athletes and their coaches based on RA 10699 but Presidential Adviser for Sports Dennis Uy spruced it up by adding P50,000 (gold), P30,000 (silver) and P20,000 (bronze) apart from the standard P300,000, P150,000 and P60,000.

In his short speech delivered, Duterte dared the medalists to deliver anew when the country hosts the 2019 edition of the biennial sportsfest.

“Make us proud again” said Duterte as officials from the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) and Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) listened intently alongside top politicians and sports leaders.

“I encourage our athletes to focus on improving and to strive to do better in the next SEA Games,” he said.

Guaranteeing that the government is fully behind the athletes, Duterte swears that he and the Filipino people “will support (you) every step of the way.”

As the country gets ready for the 2019 hosting, Malacañang instructed the PSC to “widen its scope and recruit nationwide…look for them (talents) in non-traditional places and include members of the indigenous tribes and out-of-school youth.”

While the event was formal, Duterte provided several light moments to the delight of those in attendance.

When the strikingly beautiful taekwondo silver medalist Pauline Lopez came to the stage to shake hands with Duterte, the President gestured after the handshake that his hand hurt from pressing Lopez’s hands.

The awarding rites, which was originally scheduled to take place from 5:15 to 5:45, lasted for 30 minutes (7:30 p.m. to 8 p.m).

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