By WAYLON GALVEZ
For once they agree on something.
Basketball luminaries Robert Jaworski and Ramon Fernandez have fond memories of the Rizal Memorial Coliseum, and if both can have it their way, they want to see the historic venue intact with the rest of the facilities inside the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex (RSMC) in Manila.
Just like former and current athletes, Jaworski and Fernandez – former teammates with Toyota who eventually grew estranged from each other– have expressed their positions on the possible sale of the 9.6-hectare area that was built in 1934.
“That is where I started playing,” said the now 70-year-old Jaworski, a former stalwart at University of the East before turning pro that led to a colorful career playing for Toyota and Barangay Ginebra San Miguel.
“In reality you must keep history or you will lose your own identity,” said the former senator known as the ‘Big J’ and is still considered Philippine basketball’s living legend.
Fernandez, the first of only two four-time Most Valuable Players in the PBA, said that discussing what Rizal Memorial Coliseum means brings him chills since it holds a place in his heart.
The current commissioner of the Philippine Sports Commission played there as a youngster when he first set foot in Manila as a member of the Warriors of University of San Carlos.
PSC chairman William “Butch” Ramirez is set to meet on Wednesday with officials from the City of Manila to discuss the issue since the Department of Justice has already ruled that that Manila owns the area.
Ramirez has been given the go signal by President Duterte to discuss the matter, including the possible relinquishing of rights of the RSMC to Manila by the PSC in exchange for a mutually-agreed financial package.
Proposals have been made for a new sports facility to be built in Pampanga.
However, the PSC chief is, as of late, appears to be leaning towards keeping the RMSC following consultations with current athletes like Rio Olympics silver medalist Hidilyn Diaz and multi-titled swimmer Akiko Thompson.
According to reports, business tycoon Enrique Razon has already expressed interest in purchasing the facility for P10 billion to transform the venue into a shopping and entertainment center.
“They got to think… why are we selling it? Do we need funds? What for? If I were part of the leadership, that’s what I would ask. If there is a good reason and you are taking away an arena for a wholesome and noble activity (that’s ok),” said Jaworski.
“Probably, let’s give it a more serious thought. It has to be talked about,” added the one-time PBA MVP.