POC will ask to prioritize athletes when COVID-19 vaccine is available

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 03 2020 12:45 PM

POC president Abraham "Bambol" Tolentino. File photo

MANILA, Philippines -- The Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) vows to help Filipino athletes -- particularly the Olympians -- get access to a COVID-19 vaccine once it becomes available.

POC president Abraham "Bambol" Tolentino said in Tuesday's online Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum that they will lobby for athletes to be prioritized when the vaccines are allocated.

"Lalaban tayo doon," he said. "Ilalaban natin 'yun, na i-priority natin. Ipa-priority natin 'yung sports, of course, because of the Olympics."

As of the moment, there are no guidelines on how to allocate the COVID-19 vaccine, but Tolentino is optimistic that the Philippine delegation to the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games can be prioritized.

"Ilan lang 'yun," he pointed out. "Kung iba-base lang natin 'yun sa number of delegates, ilan lang 'yun. 'Yung nag-qualify, officials, sino 'yung representative ng delegates from media."

"Hindi naman natin pababayaan ang atleta natin," he promised. "Sigurado ako na mapa-priority 'yung sportsmen natin, because of the Olympics. Even i-extend 'yan up to (the) Vietnam SEA Games."

Last March, in an unprecedented move, the International Olympic Committee and Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed to postpone the Tokyo Olympics to 2021 as the world grappled with the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Tokyo 2020 president Yoshiro Mori said in an interview in April that the Games cannot be postponed beyond 2021, and Abe has also acknowledged that it will be "difficult" to hold the Olympics if the pandemic is not contained.

Tolentino himself said it will be "very risky" to push through with the Olympics without a vaccine for COVID-19, which has infected over 6 million worldwide, according to a Reuters tally.

"Hindi pa alam ang guidelines doon, may waiver ba or what. Mabigat 'yun," he said.

However, Tolentino also noted that it would be difficult to pass up the chance to compete in the Games.

"Sayang 'yung pagkakataon," he said. "This might be our Olympic year, na andito na 'yung possible first gold medal natin."

Four Filipino athletes are already qualified to the Tokyo Games -- pole vaulter EJ Obiena, gymnast Carlos Edriel Yulo, and boxers Irish Magno and Eumir Felix Marcial. A host of other Filipino athletes are also working towards their qualification, including Rio Olympics silver medalist Hidilyn Diaz and Filipino-Japanese judoka Kiyomi Watanabe.

(For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website).