PSC board guarantees best effort to shield Olympic qualifiers, hopefuls from cost-shearing measures
MANILA, Philippines–The Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) will continue propping the country’s push for Olympic glory next year despite a massive cut in its finances necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic.
“We will not waiver in our quest to fulfill the country’s Olympic dream and we are very hopeful that more athletes will be able to qualify once the situation gets better,’’ PSC Chair William “Butch” Ramirez said on Thursday.
PSC commissioners Ramon Fernandez and Charles Raymond Maxey admitted to the Inquirer that the agency may need to go through belt-tightening measures but both assured that the PSC will do everything it can to shield athletes already qualified for Tokyo and those with strong chances of qualifying for the rescheduled Games.
“Not only will we do our best to make sure our Olympians are protected from possible budget cuts, but they will also be prioritized once we can find means to augment our funds,” Fernandez said.
Around P1.3 billion of the agency’s funds got redirected back to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) for the government’s fight against the coronavirus health crisis, reducing the financial reserve of the PSC primarily earmarked for the national athletes.
P100-M pledge, too
A highly reliable source also told the Inquirer that the P100 million initially pledged by President Duterte for the Olympic war chest will also be diverted to the fight against the current pandemic. The PSC was already hit by revenue losses due to cutbacks from its regular remittances from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor), which was also caused by the pandemic.
“We have bigger problems right now in the country,” Maxey said.
“It’s a tough situation, but we understand the priorities of the national government,’’ Ramirez said. “We will do what we can to continue the support we give to our athletes, especially those vying for Olympic spots.’’“We will find ways to be able to fund our Olympic hopefuls,” Maxey added.
By virtue of Republic Act No. 11469, or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, a total of P596 million from the PSC’s National Sports Development Fund and P773 million from the General Appropriations Act were realigned by the DBM for the nation’s COVID-19 response.Qualifiers
Four Filipino athletes—pole vaulter EJ Obiena, boxers Eumir Marcial and Irish Magno and world champion gymnast Carlos Yulo—have qualified to the Tokyo Summer Games on July 23-Aug. 8 next year.
Likewise expected to join them in the Games are Olympic silver medalist Hidilyn Diaz (weightlifting), judoka Kiyomi Watanabe, skateboarder Margielyn Didal, boxer Nesthy Petecio, karate’s Jamie Lim, Junna Tsukii and Joan Borbon and golfers Miguel Tabuena, Yuka Saso and Dottie Ardina, among others.
“If we need to clash budgets, the plan is to make sure that those athletes will be the last ones to be affected. The top priorities are those who have already qualified, followed by those who are close to qualifying,” Fernandez said.
Obiena (Italy), Yulo (Japan) and Diaz (Malaysia) are currently training abroad and the PSC has said there is no need to fly them back home due to the budget cuts.The PSC had already rolled out a cost-saving measure after the Pagcor hit, slashing allowances of national athletes by 50 percent. The PSC board will tackle what other measures they can do to save funds.