MANILA, Philippines -- The Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) is hopeful that national athletes who will compete in the Southeast Asian Games can resume training by February.
National athletes were originally set to begin their preparations in Metro Manila this week, but those plans had to be scrapped as the National Capital Region remains under Alert Level 3 due to a spike in COVID-19 cases.
"With the present situation, we are evaluating it. Most probably, when the IATF lowers the alert level, that allows us to resume practice," PSC chairman William "Butch" Ramirez said on the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum on Tuesday.
National athletes were set to train in the PhilSports Complex in Pasig City and the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex in Manila in preparation for the 31st SEA Games in Hanoi, Vietnam this May.
However, Ramirez said some of those venues are still being used as COVID-19 quarantine facilities by the national government.
"Ang usapan namin is at the end of the year, by December 2021, ibibigay nila (sa PSC). Eh tumaas ang infections, so hawak pa rin nila 'yan," he explained. "And the PSC is under the Office of the President, and buhay ng mga tao 'yan."
"Affected talaga ang sports. But ang ating mga national athletes, hindi naman bagito," Ramirez added. "They have been sent to several foreign exposure, and they have experience. They know how to adjust."
National athletes who are based overseas, including gymnast Carlos Yulo and pole vaulter EJ Obiena, can continue training. Ramirez added that some national teams are also holding training camps in bubble set-ups in areas that are under Alert Level 2.
However, he does not want to risk opening training venues in Metro Manila while COVID-19 cases are rising. On Monday, the Philippines reported a record 33,169 new cases, and the positivity rate was at 46%.
"For us to start here (in Metro Manila), we will not risk the lives," Ramirez stressed.
"I know the coaches and athletes are worried. Kung matutuloy man sa May (ang SEA Games), halos tatlong buwan (ang training). But reality 'yun, and we have to live with it," he added.
"Mga February, baka February, magbago ang IATF ng alert level, then resume tayo ng training. I'm not announcing a specific date, but most probably we can resume training in February if IATF declares that. We will pray na bumaba ang COVID infections."
Filipino athletes dominated the 2019 SEA Games, winning a record 149 gold medals. Ramirez acknowledged that the abbreviated training period will likely impact their performance in the Hanoi SEA Games, but he is confident that they will "give their best."
"Hindi lang naman tayo ang apektado," he said. "Lahat naman ng bansa sa Southeast Asia, pantay-pantay tayo."
The Hanoi SEA Games is set for May 12 to 23.