DIFFICULT and challenging the conditions may be under the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) vowed to continue working and looking after the welfare of athletes and other stakeholders.
Speaking at the first-ever online session of the Philippine Sportswriters Association Forum on Tuesday, PSC Chairman William “Butch” Ramirez shared that times are tough for their organization just like any entity amid COVID-19 but they are trying their best to find ways to dispense their duties.
Mr. Ramirez said they have been busy since COVID-19 started to make its presence felt more in March and along the way they have made some tough, but necessary, decisions.
Among them is cancelling all sports activities under its watch for the remainder of the year to safeguard the health of participants, and rebooting their thrusts and programs.
Affected events include the Philippine National Games and Philippine Youth Games-Batang Pinoy. Also cancelled was the ASEAN Para Games which the country was supposed to host this year.
The PSC also moved to take part in the fight against COVID-19, offering, among other things, its facilities in Manila (Rizal Memorial Sports Complex), Pasig (PhilSports Complex) and Baguio as quarantine areas for COVID-19 cases to be used by the government.
Mr. Ramirez further said that how they conduct training for athletes and their affairs has changed, tapping on the digital platform more, which has been a work in progress but is steadily bearing favorable results.
“It has been difficult for us but as we get better understanding of things it provides us different lessons which we can use moving forward,” said the PSC chief.
Recently, the PSC’s state of funding was spotlighted after its decision to slash by half the monthly stipend of national athletes beginning this month.
Following a board meeting last week, the PSC said it decided to reduce the allowances of athletes as the National Sports Development Fund (NSDF), where budget for the stipend comes, has been greatly depleted with priority given more to the fight against COVID-19.
The NSDF draws its funding from the income of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor), which is mandated by law to channel 5% of its earnings to the PSC.
But with casino operations currently on hold, Pagcor remittances have not been as high as hoped.
Mr. Ramirez admitted it was a tough decision to make but they vowed to have the allowances back to their usual amount once the NSDF returns to its normal level.
Citing another development, Mr. Ramirez said they welcome the recently released regulation granting a 20% discount on the purchase of goods and services by national athletes and coaches.
The PSC chairman said the regulation is long overdue and comes at a good time in light with the situation with the pandemic.
The agency is currently in the process of preparing the necessary requirements like identification cards and booklets for those qualified for them to fully enjoy the incentive.
“The [PSC] board is working. The PSC is working and will continue to look after the welfare of the athletes. If they (athletes) have concerns, they just go to us and we will help them,” Mr. Ramirez said. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo