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Freeman Cebu Sports

Fernandez takes key PSC post to serve as commissioner under chairman Butch Ramirez

Emmanuel B. Villaruel - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines - With "Change the Game' as his battlecry, basketball great Ramon "El Presidente" Fernandez has formally accepted the job as commissioner of the Philippine Sports Commission.

Fernandez, an iconic figure in Philippine sports who is highly regarded as the greatest player to have ever played in the PBA,  said he was informed of his appointment by Christopher 'Bong' Go, special assistant of President-elect Rodrigo Duterte in a phone call last Wednesday afternoon, barely 24 hours after William "Butch" Ramirez has taken his job back as PSC chairman.

"I feel humbled and privileged that I would be of help to our athletes and the Philippine sports in general," said Fernandez in an interview with Cebu sportswriters. "Accepting the job is my own way ot giving back to the sports what it has brought to me."

The 62-year-old Fernandez said he used the "Change the Game" theme as his driving force because he feels that it’s about time to change and redirect the strategic goals and directions of Philippine sports.

Under the leadership of Duterte, Fernandez said the country's sports programs should be consistent with the principles of community empowerment, decentralization and will envision a drug-free community for the youth and children.

"We will allow our people especially those from the countryside more access to sports opportunities and facilities so that everyone can have a chance to benefit from the core values of sports regardless of age, location, ability or social status," said Fernandez.

"We also aim to achieve milestones in international competitions, especially winning the most coveted first Olympic gold medal during the incumbency of President Duterte."

Once in office, the former four-time MVP and record-holder of 19 PBA championships said among his top priorities is the  establishment regional training centers for all athletes across the archipelago.

Fernandez, a member of the Philippine team that won gold medal during the 1973 FIBA Asia Championship in Manila, noted that it is also important to concentrate on sports where the Filipinos have a great chance of winning medals in major international competions.

"I will push for the creation of more sports facilities in the communities, especially in the provinces, in collaboration with the local governments. Facilities such as community swimming pools, track and fields, boxing gyms are priorities because these are the “results-capable” areas where we have garnered most medals in sporting events,' said Fernandez.

"We need to look into other emerging areas where we have recently become more competitive like the weight based sports and how they can be brought to the communities. Locating sports facilities to the provinces empowers our athletes because of their convenient access to these facilities."

Also included in masterplan is to increase opportunities for athletic scholarships through private sector support as pathways for poor but deserving athletes, provide sports grants for athletes with disabilities, increase the athletes' allowance and review existing athlete reward system, establish a coaching and trainers academy, and  create a special elite sports program support to elite athletes on various fronts, including coaching and training, sports science, sports medicine and monetary grants. 

"It is time to “Change the Game” and put an end to a highly centralized, politics and corruption-plagued sports commission mainly run in Manila. We have to decentralize and bring back sports to the communities where it rightfully belongs, where its core values will be strongly felt by the people," said Fernandez.

"It is time for a sports commission that will be accessible and with pathways that will produce opportunities for them to play more sports in the schools, communities and countryside, in a safe and drug-free environment, to empower our people to live a better and active life through sports," he concluded.  (FREEMAN)

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