PSC stays committed as virus grounds nat'l athletes

Olympic-bound athletes boxer Eumir Felix Marcial, pole vaulter EJ Obiena, gymnast Carlos Yulo, boxer Irish Magno (Handout Photos)

Euphoria still hasn’t subsided following the country’s overall championship victory at the 2019 Southeast Asian Games when pandemic hit the country early in 2020.

The local sporting scene, as with the rest of the world, went on a standstill as national athletes, coaches and even sports officials also took a massive hit on the effects of the deadly virus.

Among those that struggled to keep afloat was the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC), which faced its biggest hurdle yet in keeping the well-being of their athletes, coaches and employees.

The pandemic deeply affected the government sports agency financially, seeing the large chunk of its budget getting channeled to the country’s fight to the global disease.

Government sports venues like the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex in Manila and the Philsports Complex in Pasig were also turned into temporary medical facilities.

Read: PSC sends home from Ninoy Aquino Stadium all 123 patients now cleared of COVID-19

With the government imposing a lockdown last March, national athletes were also forced to go home to their provinces to train by themselves.

As if it wasn’t enough, the PSC had to temporarily cut the allowances of athletes and coaches into half in the middle of the year due to budget constraints. It also cancelled all its sports programs, particularly grassroots events such as the Philippine National Games and Batang Pinoy.

Despite these difficulties, the PSC continued to support the athletes specifically in their quest to the postponed 2021 Tokyo Olympics. Foreign training continued for Olympic-bound pole vaulter EJ Obiena in Italy, as well as world champion gymnast Carlos Yulo in Japan. The agency also supported boxer Eumir Marcial to his training in the United States.

Read: PSC to prioritize COVID-19 vaccination for national athletes, coaches

Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) president and Tagaytay City Rep. Bambol Tolentino also came in to lend a helping hand, pushing for the inclusion of a provision giving P180 million allocation to national athletes and coaches to restore their allowances in full under the Bayanihan Act 2.

Read: PSC assures: Athletes, coaches to receive full allowances before Christmas

Tolentino, who was reelected as POC chief last November, also said he had successfully lobbied for Congress a P900 million additional budget for the PSC to boost the training and participation of athletes for next year.

The PSC, under chairman Butch Ramirez, also worked on the resumption of training of national athletes, particularly those who have high chances of earning Olympic berths following the Inter-Agency Task Force’s approval on training for Olympic hopefuls and qualifiers late this year.

Read: PSC chief hopeful of more Olympic qualifiers

Controversy also did not escape the PSC after it discovered a payroll fraud that one of its employees allegedly committed over the past five years. The discovery forced the agency to undergo an organizational revamp last July.