Philippine Sports Commission William “Butch” Ramirez (File photo)

MANILA – Philippine Sports Commission William “Butch” Ramirez on Tuesday said the country’s overall performance in the just concluded 31st Vietnam Southeast Asian Games in Vietnam was nothing to be ashamed of, a good finish, in fact, considering the challenges Filipino bets had to face in the build-up to the meet.

“Our performance in bringing home 52 gold, 70 silver, and 104 bronze medals in placing fourth overall in the medal standings was a good finish despite the various challenges our national athletes had to face amid the Covid-19 pandemic before competing in Vietnam,” Ramirez said.

“It would have been a very good finish had we converted 50 percent of our silvers (to gold) and bronzes (to silver),” noted the PSC chief, who has been closely monitoring the progress of the country’s standard-bearers in the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi and surrounding provinces.

He pointed out that funding training programs to develop elite athletes for international competition was expensive.

“You need money for coaches, both local and foreign, airfare, transportation and hotel for international exposure to season them, plus the logistical support like proper nutrition, sports psychology, and medicine for athletes discovered abroad or locally,” Ramirez explained.

As someone who began his stint in the PSC as a commissioner in 1998, then as chairman for the first time from 2005 to 2009, and then as chairman again from 2016 to the present, he said short-term programs to nurture top athletes were at least four years while 12 years so they could be truly world-class, as long as they start young.

The prime example, Ramirez said, was weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz, who was a wildcard entry at 17 in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, then won a silver in the 2016 Rio Games before finally delivering the country’s first gold medal in the Tokyo edition last year when she was 30 years old.

The PSC honcho also reminded everyone that the government’s sports agency was not only to support national athletes but also to implement a genuine grassroots sports program in the countryside in cooperation with the Department of Education and local government units.

“The PSC will never achieve its grassroots goals without our partners in the DepEd and LGUs,” he said.

At the same time, Ramirez renewed his commitment and support “to our private partners, the Philippine Olympic Committee and the National Sports Association,” in promoting and nurturing athletes for international play.

He said while the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. has given the PSC’s high remittances before the pandemic, “the PSC still has to get the 5e percent of its gross income as required by Republic Act 6847 that created the government sports agency.”

“This gross income needs to be remitted by PAGCOR to the PSC so we can fund these two fundamental purposes the government sports agency was created for,” he said.

Ramirez likewise said the Philippine Sports Institute needs adequate government funds to pursue its goals of updating the country’s know-how in sports medicine and technology, including the improved sports rehabilitation facilities, in keeping abreast with the rest of the world.

He mentioned that the country’s success in the Tokyo Olympics, where Filipinos achieved a milestone of one gold from Diaz, two silvers from boxers Carlo Paalam and Nesthy Petecio, and a bronze from fellow pug Eumir Felix Marcial, were products of intensive training and exposure overseas funded by the PSC.

He is hopeful that the PSC’s allocation in the national government budget, a portion of which goes to grassroots sports, would be increased in tune with the times.

Ramirez also was grateful for the private sector like the MVP Sports Foundation in helping some national sports associations (NSAs) and encouraged more institutions and personalities to chip in and recognize the value of investing in the development of athletes.

As one of the architects of the country’s successful campaigns in the Tokyo and Rio Olympics, 2018 Asian Games and 2019 Philippine SEA Games, Ramirez credited these positive results to his “dedicated board of commissioners through our leadership in guiding and collaborating with our stakeholders.” (PR)