There are a number of erroneous statements in the article entitled “Field of failure?” about the track oval in the Davao City-UP Sports Complex published in the 24 November 2019 issue of the Edge Davao newspaper, and the University of the Philippines (UP) Mindanao wishes to address these head on.

The entire Sports Complex is an inter-agency effort between the City Government of Davao and the University of the Philippines, in consultation with the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC). The PSC has been consulted from the planning to the implementation of the various projects in the Sports Complex. For the track oval, PSC engineers and architects have regularly inspected and monitored the project. Hence, any decisions regarding the specifications of the track oval is in conformity with the advice of PSC.

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. In response to the observed slope in the track oval, the manual actually allows for this, stating:

For the competition area for Track Events the following maximum gradients shall apply:
– 0.1% downward in the direction of running. Should the gradient of the sprint track as part of a Standard Track vary, the inclination is measured in a straight line between start and finish line for each event.
– 1.0% across the width of the track towards the inside lane. The traverse 1.0% gradient is primarily to ensure quick drainage of rainwater from the track surface. . . . (chap. 2, p. 33)

We would also like to dispel the notion that designing a “double bend” track oval makes the facility “nonstandard” as alleged in the article. In fact, such ovals are permissible as per IAAF rules. To quote from the manual: “It is normal for an athletics track to be used for other sports. Generally, this involves using the interior of the 400m tracks as a pitch for soccer, American football or rugby. Obstacle-free sports areas in the segments at the same level as the playing field without kerbs over which sportsmen could stumble can be included in the safety zones.” The manual then provides specifications for “double bend” ovals, and the one in the Sports Complex has complied with these specifications as evidenced by the plans available at the university’s Campus Planning and Development Office.

The decision to integrate the football field with the track oval was done for practical reasons to address limited space and budget. It would have been more costly to have two separate stadiums for football and track and field. Moreover, the use of artificial turf for the football field was done because natural grass will require 10,000 L of water twice a day to maintain, which is counter to the “green UP” initiative promoted by the university. But because of this decision, throwing events cannot be held within the stadium as the impact of objects hitting the artificial turf will damage it considerably; hence, a throwing and archery field is being constructed adjacent to the stadium. Jumping events may also be integrated outside the track oval at a later date, but the university currently does not have the budget to develop the area allotted for these events.

During the Palarong Pambansa last April, the open area for jumping and throwing found adjacent to the stadium was not yet finished; hence, the organizers decided to hold archery matches there instead and hold all football matches in the stadium. The track and field events were transferred to the University of Mindanao facility in order to have all related events such as running, throwing, and jumping in one venue.

Furthermore, the tournament manager of the Davao City Athletics Association (DCAA was made aware of the as yet non-existent facility for jumping and throwing but still decided to have these events in the Sports Complex, necessitating the creation of a makeshift long jump venue outside the oval. In fact, DepEd signed a memorandum of agreement stating that they will take charge of “Preparing, maintaining, and clearing all areas to be used for all track and field games.”

But the biggest error in the said article is the claim that the track oval costs P450 million. The cost for civil works (approximated based on the area as this process was done for both the football field and track oval) and the laying of synthetic track amounts to about P55.5 million only, which is funded by UP. Other facilities in the Sports Complex, such as the stadium surrounding the track oval and football field, is implemented by the Department of Public Works and Highways.

UP Mindanao has no record of being contacted by the writer of the article or any representative from the publication to verify the information contained in the said article. The university remains open for any request for information regarding facilities being constructed within its campus.

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