PSC chair Ramirez to successor: Concentrate on grassroots sports

WILLIAM “BUTCH” RAMIREZ is on the final two weeks of his term as chairman of the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) but besides leaving behind a legacy that sparkles with an Olympic gold medal, he wants the next man at the helm to put more weight on developing homegrown athletes.

“Look at Hidilyn Diaz,” Ramirez told the Philippine Sportswriters Association Forum that went face-to-face for the first time in more than two years, but perhaps his last appearance as PSC chairman in the weekly public forum.

Diaz, of course, is the country’s first Olympic gold medalist who topped the women’s -55 kgs class in Tokyo last August. She is a full-blooded Filipino coming out of far-flung Barangay Mampang in Zamboanga City where weightlifting is now a must if another local would want to be where Diaz is right now.

“We have to rely on our grassroots programs. Hidilyn [Diaz] is a hardworking girl…the process is very, very long,” said Ramirez who was in his first tour of duty as PSC chairman when Diaz was an innocent Olympics first timer in Beijing 2008. “There’s nothing wrong with foreign recruitment, but you just can’t be proud of that.”

It has become a practice among national sports associations to recruit heritage athletes, a band aid solution if a national federation wants to win medals outright.

“I’m a believer of the Filipino athletes and coaches,” Ramirez said in the forum he amusingly described as his “exit interview.”

Diaz was a prized find from the PSC’s Batang Pinoy, a sports competitions among Filipino athletes who are no older than 15.

Diaz, Ramirez said, is “just like one of the many seeds planted by the PSC throughout the years in collaboration with the Philippine Olympic Committee and NSAs that grew up as elite athletes.”

“If you don’t plant anything, you won’t harvest anything,” the 72-year-old Ramirez said. “Achievements aren’t done by magic.”

He added that the PSC invested P600 million in elite sports at the start of his second term in 2016, P800 million in 2017 and more than P1 billion in 2019.

Ramirez started as commissioner in 1998 under the late chairman Carlos “Butch” Tuason and was named chairman from 2004 to 2008. He was re-appointed PSC chairman in 2016 by President Rodrigo Duterte.”

“I’m ready to return to Davao [his hometown] but I’m willing to be an adviser and share my experience and knowhow with the incoming PSC leadership,” he said.