MANILA, Philippines -- While members of the national karate, taekwondo, and boxing teams are now training at the Inspire Sports Academy, other Filipino athletes who will compete at the Southeast Asian Games are still restricted to online training.
This, as the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) is still working on gaining clearance from the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) to allow the athletes to undergo face-to-face training.
"We need the IATF clearance for that," said national training director Marc Velasco, who appeared on Tuesday at the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum.
Velasco added that PSC commissioner Ramon Fernandez, who was recently appointed as chef de mission to the 2021 SEA Games in Hanoi, Vietnam, is coordinating with the IATF to get clearance for the athletes.
At the moment, only those who are qualified or still seeking slots to the Tokyo Games are allowed to enter the bubble in Calamba, Laguna.
Other Olympic-bound athletes, including gymnast Caloy Yulo, pole vaulter EJ Obiena, and boxer Eumir Marcial are training overseas. Weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz, who is set to formalize her entry to the Games, is also abroad.
According to Velasco, no more than 60 persons are expected to enter the Calamba bubble, including athletes and coaches.
Karate Pilipinas president Richard Lim, whose athletes are already inside the Inspire facility, said the health and safety protocols being implemented by the government and the PSC are crucial to the success of the bubble.
"We have to prioritize the safety of everybody. I think everybody (SEA Games rivals) is in the same situation," he explained. "Health is our primary concern."
Velasco is hoping that sooner or later, the COVID-19 vaccines can be administered which will give Filipino athletes the go-signal to go full blast in training after having been limited to virtual sessions for most of 2020.
In ordinary times, Velasco said an athlete will need 21 weeks of training to reach full fitness. But with no international exposure due to travel restrictions, Filipino athletes may need a longer period to reach their peak form in time for the SEA Games.
"That's why we're planning the best timetable for them," he said. "With no foreign exposure, we need longer training cycles."