MANILA, Philippines -- The Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) on Wednesday announced that it will procure COVID-19 vaccines for members of Team Philippines who will participate in the 31st Southeast Asian Games in Hanoi later this year.
The POC will do so in its capacity as a private entity, just days after Malacanang allowed private companies to secure vaccines for their workforce.
"This is good news for Filipino athletes who will be competing in the Hanoi SEA Games. Once they get inoculated, they can train with very little fear of getting infected," said POC president Rep. Abraham "Bambol" Tolentino.
The POC will purchase the vaccines through a $40,000 subsidy from the Olympic Council of Asia, Tolentino explained.
POC first vice president Al Panlilio has been appointed as chairman of the sports body's task force on vaccine procurement.
"It would be up to the task force what brand and when to start the procurement process," said Tolentino. "Whichever is the first available vaccine that will be allowed for procurement, we will get. We cannot choose."
Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) commissioner Ramon Fernandez, who was named chef de mission to the Vietnam SEA Games, welcomed the development.
"This is really very good news for Philippine sports," he said.
The POC formed a delegation of 626 athletes to the Hanoi SEA Games, with the Philippines expected to compete in 39 of the 40 sports in the program. The PSC has already approved the figure and began deliberations on the team's funding.
The SEA Games are set from November 21 to December 2.
Earlier, ICTSI chairman Enrique Razon committed Moderna vaccines for the Philippine athletes who will compete in the Tokyo Olympics. These vaccines are expected to arrive in late May or early June, according to Tolentino.
Of the country's Olympians, only boxer Eumir Marcial has been inoculated. Marcial has been training since October 2020 in Los Angeles, California with famed trainer Freddie Roach.
Other Olympic qualifiers -- boxers Carlo Paalam, Nesthy Petecio and Irish Magno, gymnast Carlos Yulo and pole vaulter EJ Obiena -- have yet to be vaccinated.