PHILIPPINE Sports Commission (PSC) chairman William 'Butch' Ramirez said he understood the decision of chess grandmaster Wesley So to move out of the country and compete internationally under the United States banner.
But Ramirez insisted the PSC is taking steps to protect the welfare of national athletes so the Philippines won't lose another potential world champion, like in the case of So.
In a press conference held at Malacanang on Thursday, Ramirez admitted he was taken by surprise but felt So was only doing what's best for his career when he decided to no longer carry the Philippine flag in international competitions.
"I was surprised na pumunta siya sa Amerika but I don't blame him," Ramirez said. "If the Philippines cannot provide for his needs, talagang lilipat 'yung bata. Just like an athlete from the province, if the province cannot provide for his needs, he goes to Manila."
So's decision to transfer to the US recently became well-documented after he moved up to second in the chess world rankings just behind world champion Magnus Carlsen of Denmark.
While he understands So's move, Ramirez still hopes to keep the Philippines' top athletes in the country, which is why the PSC has implemented steps to protect the welfare of the national sports stars.
"Gumawa kami ng contract kasi may mga athletes and coaches na tinanggal (sa national team) without due process. We are mandated to protect our athletes," said Ramirez.
Ramirez also called on national sports associations to make the plight of their athletes a top priority.
"Malamang baka nagka-problema sa kanyang NSA. As a sports association, it's just like a business organization or a family na kung hindi magiging maayos 'yung pamilya mo, magkakaproblema. It's not about the money but it's how we care for our athletes," said Ramirez.