MANILA, Philippines -- The Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) is confident that members of the Philippine delegation to the Tokyo Olympics will receive the COVID-19 vaccine ahead of the Summer Games.
According to POC president Rep. Abraham "Bambol" Tolentino, they have already requested the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) to include athletes bound for the Olympics into the priority list for vaccination against COVID-19.
"Sumulat na rin ang POC sa IATF, and we're just waiting for their response," Tolentino said during the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum, Tuesday.
"Natawagan ko na 'yung mga officers ng IATF, and they will remind Secretary (Carlito) Galvez about that, the prioritization of the national athletes bound for Olympics," he added.
If approved by the IATF, then members of the Philippine delegation can then avail of the vaccine through the national government, said Tolentino.
As of last week, the government has approved of four priority groups in the coronavirus vaccination drive. Chief in the priority list are frontline workers, followed by senior citizens, and then persons with comorbidities. Last Friday, Malacañang approved the "A4" group, which are frontline personnel in essential sectors.
Athletes may also avail of the vaccines through the commitment of business tycoon Enrique Razon, who in February said he will provide vaccines for Olympic-bound athletes and coaches.
Filipino athletes who will compete in the Southeast Asian Games, meanwhile, will be vaccinated through the POC's own program, headed by POC first vice president Al Panlilio. The Olympic Council of Asia has given a $40,000 grant to the Philippines for this purpose.
"Tatlo 'yung magiging available natin," Tolentino said of the means of vaccination for athletes. "Definitely, there will be (vaccines) for the Tokyo-bound (delegation)... Kung ano ang mauna sa tatlong 'yun, doon na tayo."
"Coaches, trainers, NSA (national sports association) officials, the Philippine delegates from the POC, PSC (Philippine Sports Commission), media, and everything," he added. "Dapat 'yun (ma-vaccinate)."
While the organizers of the Tokyo Games have not made vaccination mandatory for participation, Tolentino said it would be ideal if the Philippine delegation, particularly the athletes, are vaccinated ahead of the Olympics.
"It's not mandatory, unless i-mandatory ng Tokyo. But I think it's better (to be vaccinated)," he said.
Seven Filipinos have already qualified for the Tokyo Olympics: boxers Eumir Marcial, Irish Magno, Nesthy Petecio, and Carlo Paalam; gymnast Caloy Yulo; pole vaulter EJ Obiena; and weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz. Of the group, only Marcial has been vaccinated, having gotten the jab in Los Angeles, California where he has been training since last year.
As of April 16, a total of 3,025,600 vaccines have arrived in the Philippines. The country has administered 1,477,757 doses since the start of the vaccination drive last March 1.