By Nick Giongco
Facilities at the historic Rizal Memorial Sports Complex, on whose grounds raged a battle aimed at recapturing Manila during World War II, is ready to assume a new role.
From a place of death and destruction, the RMSC is about to be transformed into a sanctuary of hope, a shelter to dispel sorrow and despair.
As the government battles the coronavirus pandemic, Philippine Sports Commission chairman Butch Ramirez Tuesday spoke about the readiness of the RMSC venues to become a temporary quarantine area for those with mild cases of COVID-19.
“The RMSC and even the Philsports here are ready to house patients with mild cases of the virus,” Ramirez said from his quarters in the Pasig complex.
“This is Philippine sports’ one way of contributing to efforts to preserve human lives,” said Ramirez, who has designated Marc Velasco in charge of the RMSC.
Ramirez said almost all the athletes have gone to their respective families in Metro Manila and the provinces, making the RMSC and Philsports ideal sites to house the stricken.
Besides, the Tokyo Olympics won’t be happening until the middle of 2021, and the 2021 Southeast Asian Games in Hanoi, Vietnam toward the end of next year.
“Once the hospitals become filled to capacity, the RMSC and Philsports facilities can start taking in patients,” said Ramirez, noting that the newly-upgraded Rizal Coliseum and even the track and field stadium and baseball park are spacious enough to become temporary shelter.
These facilities will be managed by a joint team from the Department of Health, Department of Public Works and Highways and other government institutions, said Ramirez.
The decision to have these venues as backup sites for the treatment of patients was arrived at on Monday.
As Ramirez formally made the declaration of the RMSC as an ‘open city’, members of the military were already spotted inside the complex on Tuesday morning possibly doing an ocular.
Marc Velasco, the PSC’s national training director, said the Ninoy Aquino Stadium (NAS) on Adriatico Street, has been tapped as the main site for the housing of PUIs and patients with mild symptoms.
“Those who will exhibit moderate symptoms will have to be in the hospital because the one here at the RMSC should also serve as a clinic for those who could not be attended to by the hospitals because they have been turned away,” said Velasco.
Told that residents in the area might rally against the government’s plan to use the RMSC, Velasco maintains that he understands their predicament although it is government that has control over these facilities.
The NAS has running water, electricity and ample space and easy to access from outside, according to Velasco, who expects the venue to be a hive of activity in a few days.
“The PSC is just providing the area running the place will be done by the DOH, DPWH, the police and the military,” said Velasco, noting that the other venues like the coliseum are likewise prepared to become extensions “should NAS gets decongested.”
“We are doing a part in helping the government,” he added.