PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — World’s pound-for-pound boxing champ Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao yesterday played down the advice of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Department of Health (DOH) for him to put off his return to the Philippines in light of the swine flu virus that has spread to the United States, specifically in Los Angeles, California, where Pacquiao stayed throughout his training until his victorious fight with British boxing champ Ricky Hatton.
“Wrong advice,” Pacquiao said in Filipino when asked to comment on the recommendation of the WHO and DOH officials.
Pacquiao continued, “Considering the number of people who came to visit me in Los Angeles asking for my autograph and photo ops, it would be easier for me to catch the virus there. They should have instead told me to go home (to the Philippines) immediately rather than stay longer in the U.S. so as not to catch the virus there.”
Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Lito Atienza, who is like a second father to Manny, could only agree with him and gave his full support to the champ’s decision to go home as scheduled.
“Manny is right. If the virus is fast spreading in the U.S., particularly in L.A. where Manny is staying, he might catch the virus there because of the large number of people wanting to see our boxing superstar in person just like here in our country. Everywhere he went, people stopped to get a handshake and an autograph from Manny. So why advise him to stay there,” Atienza said.
According to Atienza, Pacquiao even told him that facing the fans was harder than the fight with Hatton, referring to the large number of people going to his house in L.A. and wanting to see him in person.
“Why pick only on Manny when there are many people arriving at the airport without masks. If they really meant to be strict about it, they should have enforced the wearing of the masks to everyone not only on Manny,” Atienza stressed.
Pacquiao said he and the members of Team Pacquiao are very healthy and there are no signs of infection among his group. Pacquiao added that he and and his team underwent the necessary thermal screening requirements upon their arrival at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 2.
At the DENR office in Quezon City, where Pacquiao made a surprise visit after hearing a Thanksgiving Mass at the Basilica of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo, Manila, Atienza announced that Pacquiao rededicated himself to the protection of the environment and the conservation of the country’s natural resources by donating another P100,000 to the Philippine Eagle Fund.
According to Atienza, the latest donation would go for the construction of a huge bird cage at the Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Nature Center in Quezon City to house two Philippine eagles.
Atienza said Pacquiao has, to date, made a total contribution of P500,000 for the conservation of the country’s endangered species, namely, the Philippine eagle (P300,000), tarsier (P100,000) and corals (P100,000).