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  • MANILA, Philippines — Ramon Fernandez, the country’s chef-de-mission to the upcoming Southeast Asian Games, was glad to hear that the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA) and pole vaulter EJ Obiena have settled their differences after a months-long feud.

    “For me, that’s a positive thing that happened,” said Fernandez.

    The Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) board member 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 (NSAs) 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 said during Tuesday’s Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum.

    “At least nakita nila (athletes) that if may problema, pwede naman mag-mediate ang PSC,” he added.

    It was the sports agency that mediated the differences between PATAFA and Obiena, ending a row that began last November.

    With the hatchet buried, PATAFA is set to welcome Obiena back into the national team pool and endorse him for international events — including the SEA Games, where he is the defending champion.

    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,” Fernandez said. (abs-cbn)

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