(FROM LEFT) BCDA Senior Vice-President Engr. Joshua Bingcang, Capas Mayor Rey Catacutan, Tarlac Governor Susan Yap, NAS Executive Director Josephine Joy Reyes, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, Education Assistant Secretary Malcolm Garma, and NAS Deputy Executive Director Emil Arroyo at the unveiling of NAS’ architectural renders. — BCDA

THE construction for the P557.8-million first phase of the National Academy of Sports (NAS) has begun, with the marker and architectural renders unveiled at the weekend.

Born under Republic Act (RA) 11470, which was signed by President Rodrigo R. Duterte in June 2020, the NAS is a green and climate-resilient learning center and training ground for deserving Filipino scholar-athletes, to be built at the New Clark City in Capas, Tarlac.

As per the timeline set by proponents, academics and administrative buildings as well as a multi-purpose gym will be completed in February 2022 under NAS Phase 1.

It is in line with the effort to prepare the pioneering and future students of NAS once face-to-face learning resumes, equipping them with a conducive environment for academics, sports training and character development.

To usher in the construction of the first phase, officials of NAS, Department of Education (DepEd), Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) and Philippine Sports Commission (PSC), on Saturday, unveiled the ceremonial marker and architectural renders of the soon-to-be home of Filipino student-athletes and professionals.

“This momentous and historical event marks the beginning to showcase not just a physical structure, but an institution that will provide the educational advancement and development of high-quality sports programs, training and experience to our future world-class student-athletes,” NAS Executive Director Josephine Joy B. Reyes during the unveiling ceremony.

The construction also comes on the heels of NAS formally opening classes on Sept. 13, welcoming its first batch of student-athlete scholars who are enrolled in a specialized sports-oriented education curriculum via remote learning modalities amid the ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

Authors of RA 11470 at the Senate expressed their excitement over the start of the construction of NAS and said that they hope the vision of the academy of providing support for the academic and skills development of future Filipino athletes will be realized now and moving forward.

For the BCDA, to have NAS inside the New Clark City is a welcome addition as it complements the thrust it has set for the P9.5-billion sports complex.

“Our athletes have waited so long for world-class sports facilities. BCDA is thrilled to be part of the creation of the National Academy of Sports, and the development of the country’s athletes who will study and train there. With a sports-centered academic program and facilities at par with international standards, we envision NAS to be a cradle for future world champions,” said BCDA President and CEO Vivencio B. Dizon in an earlier e-mail interview with BusinessWorld.

The complex includes a 20,000-seat Athletics Stadium with an International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF)-certified track; a 2,000-seat International Swimming Federation (FINA)-certified Aquatics Center; and an Athletes’ Village. It was built to serve as the showpiece of the 30th Southeast Asian Games in December 2019.

It, too, is the first major sports hub developed by the government since the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex was built in 1934. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo