MANILA – The Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) believes the Filipino athletes can hold their own in the coming 31st Southeast Asian Games in Hanoi, Vietnam on May 12-23.
They may not win the overall championship again and capture 149 gold medals like in 2019, but they can surely finish in the Top 3 with possibly 100 golds.
“The PSC, headed by Chairman Butch Ramirez, believes in the Filipino athletes. We’re confident they will do well despite the limited training due to the pandemic," PSC Commissioner and SEA Games chef de mission Ramon Fernandez said during the 3rd “Sports on Air Weekly” program on January 28.
Fernandez, nicknamed “El Presidente” during his playing days from 1972 to 1994, said he agreed with the assessment of Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) president Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino that retaining the overall championship in the SEA Games is difficult after host Vietnam scrapped most of the events where the Filipinos are strong.
“Honestly, I'll be happy if we land in the Top 3 of the standings. I'll be very happy if we can get 100 golds," he said.
The 68-year-old basketball legend from Cebu said the POC and the national sports associations are the best sources of medal projection in the biennial competition.
"It's hard to say from the PSC side, but I'm hoping that our athletes will live up to our expectations and perform as well as they did here in Manila,” he said.
He admitted it is the privilege of the host country to choose the sports that will be included in the program.
“Sa SEA Games, lagi naman talaga nakalalamang ang host country dahil makapamimili sila ng sports. Ganun din naman ginawa natin nung 2019. Sa arnis lang, naka 16 golds tayo nun. Ngayon hindi kasali sa Vietnam. Tinuruan pa nga sila ni Sen. Migz (Zubiri) ng arnis, pero hindi pa din sinali (In SEA Games, host country has always an advantage because it can choose sports. That’s what we did in 2019. We won 16 golds in arnis. Now arnis is not included in Vietnam. Senator Migz taught them arnis, by still they did not include it),” Fernandez said.
Fernandez said the government sports agency is doing everything possible to meet the needs of the national athletes as instructed by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte since their appointment in mid-2016.
"Gaya nga ng habilin ni (Like the directive of) President Duterte when we were appointed to the PSC, we have to take care of the athletes, including those coming from the grassroots,” Fernandez recalled.
“If you ask me, I can say that the PSC did everything we can despite the limited budget due to the outbreak of Covid-19. That’s why even last year, nanawagan na kami sa mga LGUs natin na suportahan ang ating mga atleta, lalo na sa may mga mabababang cases ang virus. Madami naman tumulong, gaya ng Ormoc, Ilocos, Laguna at iba pa (we called on LGUs to support our athletes especially in areas with low cases of virus. They immediately responded, like Ormoc, Ilocos, Laguna and others),” he added.