WHEN I asked one of the people who were with President Rodrigo Duterte's campaign what the then president-elect's preference in the NBA finals was, I was told he really wasn't much into basketball or sports for that matter. I got apprehensive and thought sports would play fourth or fifth fiddle to his anti-drug campaign.

But when he appointed William Ramirez back to the Philippine Sports Commission, I changed my mind. Besides, as he loves to tell everyone, you don't have to be an expert in everything to do the right thing.

Unlike previous PSC chairmen, who were all presidential appointees but didn't have the president's ear, Butch and Digong are a close bunch, since the PSC chair was in the advance party during the campaign season. The former PSC chair Ritchie Garcia had to go through Peping Cojuangco to get to the president and that access was lost when Peping asked for PNoy's ouster. This time around, Butch can just show up for a cup of coffee with the president, though I doubt he does that.

Their closeness can be discerned by the development in the sports landscape. Consider the Philippine Sports Institute for an example. How difficult do you think to get funding from the government? Ever since he announced his plan, there was no worry on funding. The PSI will be funded. Period.

In contrast, Peping's national training center has been in the drawing board since I was a part-time correspondent in the paper. Not a single stone has been erected.

Consider, too the incentives for athletes. For the Olympics, the athletes got a 100-percent increase in their allowance. And when Hidilyn Diaz got home with a silver medal from Rio, Charles Maxey (one of the PSC commissioners) handed her a check for P7.5 million. The release of funds is that quick.

That's from the government side.

From the private sector, we learned that Digong has been busy too, because it was announced last Monday that Dennis Uy, the presidential adviser for sports, was able to gather P1 billion pledges from the private sector to support the national athletes. That's a billion and, if it comes to fruition, that's the biggest support from the private sector in the country ever.

Though Dennis Uy, the adviser, took the credit for getting the pledges, I don't think he'd be able to raise P100 million if not for presidential backing, which shows how much support Philippine sports is going to get in the next five years and change.

What are they going to do with P1 billion? I'm pretty sure the NSA presidents who have itchy hands are raring to get their hands on the pie, but since Butch Ramirez is no stranger to the PSC and guys like Ramon Fernandez and Charles Maxey know the million and one ways NSAs milk the government, I'm pretty confident that its the athletes, not the overstaying officials, who will benefit from the kitty.

P1 billion from the private sector for sports, now that's something to cheer about. Not that P3 billion for Manny's farewell fight.