Chef-de-mission Ramon Fernandez Tuesday welcomed the positive news that world No. 5 pole-vaulter EJ Obiena and the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association have finally buried their differences.
“For me that’s a positive thing that happened,” said the Philippine Sports Commission board member with just over a month left before the 31st Southeast Asian Games in Vietnam.
Fernandez, the basketball legend, has been tasked to oversee the preparations and actual participation of Team Philippines in Vietnam, where Pinoy athletes are hard-pressed to retain the overall crown or land in the podium.
He said any internal dispute involving athletes and national sports associations is the last thing the delegation needs before they embark on the mission in Hanoi from May 12 to 23.
“It will have an overall effect. EJ Obiena and PATAFA finally mending their fences is positive (news) for our athletes. We should learn lessons from that incident,” Fernandez told the online Philippine Sportswriters Association Forum.
“At least nakita nila (athletes) that if may problema, puwede naman mag-mediate ang PSC,” said Fernandez following the successful mediation process handled by PSC chairman Butch Ramirez on the Obiena case that lasted five months.
“Makakatulong. Boost talaga,” Fernandez added during the forum presented by San Miguel Corporation, MILO, Philippine Sports Commission, Philippine Olympic Committee, Unilever, Amelie Hotel Manila, and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR).
Fernandez said the 987-strong Philippine delegation to Vietnam will include 646 athletes and 296 team officials to be funded by the PSC, and 45 NOC (National Olympic Committee) delegates.
The Philippines won the overall title as host in 2019 by winning 149 gold, 117 silver and 121 bronze medals. But a big chunk of the events won by Filipino athletes two years ago have been scrapped this year, including arnis (14) and obstacle racing (six).
“I’m relying on our podium finishers in 2019. Most of them are playing. And I’m hoping that all of them will retain their titles. I’m also hoping that those who won silver and bronze medals will improve,” he said.