Secretary Armin Luistro said Sunday the Department of Education is giving special attention to what the Palarong Pambansa can contribute to achieving peace in Mindanao.

The national government wants the Palaro to be a vehicle to achieve peace, even if it is taking place in Negros Oriental, as peace must be the concern of everybody, like the athletes showcasing their talents and skills in the one-week sports event, he added.

He also said that, aside from playing, contingents from the 17 regions should also undertake outreach programs, like planting trees in the campuses where they are billeted.

Luistro said Silliman University hosted a welcome program for the delegation of more than 600 from the Autonomous Muslim in Muslim Mindanao, adding that, through sports, Christians, Muslims and the lumads alike can be together in spite of varied cultures and beliefs.

Gov. Roel Degamo said all delegations are treated fairly and squarely, with the cooperation of private schools in Dumaguete where the athletes are billeted, like the SU, Foundation University, Saint Paul College of Dumaguete, Colegio de Sta. Catalina of Alejandria, SLS-Don Bosco, Negros Oriental State University, San Pedro Academy in Valencia, and the Holy Cross High School.

He said the provincial government will shoulder the electric bills of the schools for the Palaro duration.

Meanwhile, for the first time in the history of Palaro, DepEd is extending cash to athletes who win medals as incentives.

Assistant Secretary Tony Umali said the DepEd has collected P1.6 million in contributions from sponsors and the amount will be given to the winners directly.

Around P205.3 million has been allotted for this year’s national sporting event, with P70 million spent during the division, district and regional meets and P136.5 million for the national Palaro, including the purchase of equipment and financial assistance to all the delegations.

Negros Oriental allocated a counterpart of P25 million.*JG