MANILA, Philippines -- The organizers of the 31st Southeast Asian Games in Hanoi, Vietnam have imposed a "no vaccine, no participation" policy, the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) announced on Wednesday.
According to POC president Abraham "Bambol" Tolentino, the Vietnam SEA Games Organizing Committee made the announcement during an online SEA Games Federation meeting on Tuesday.
The organizers have assured that the SEA Games, scheduled for November 21 to December 2, will push through, but they are also firm on the vaccine policy.
"Their policy is for the good of everyone," said Tolentino.
With this latest development, Tolentino has written the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) to prioritize the inoculation of SEA Games-bound delegates, especially athletes and coaches.
"Most of the athletes from our Southeast Asian counterparts are already vaccinated and we’re the only country that is left behind," Tolentino admitted.
"But we already wrote the IATF to prioritize the SEA Games-bound delegates. We’re ready to take any vaccine [brand]," he added.
Tolentino said the national sports associations (NSA) have been advised to identify the athletes who will be prioritized for the vaccination program.
"Before we fly to Vietnam, everyone should be vaccinated. Or better yet, before the NSAs start training their athletes face-to-face," he said.
The POC has received a grant of $40,000 (P1.9 million) from the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) that will be used to purchase the vaccines.
POC first vice-president Al Panlilio, who has been tasked to purchase the vaccines, assured that the entire delegation would be inoculated as soon as the vaccines are available.
Only Tokyo Olympics-bound athletes Eumir Felix Marcial and Hidilyn Diaz have already been vaccinated.
The POC is planning to send 626 athletes to the SEA Games, where they will try to build on a historic performance in the 2019 edition of the event. Team Philippines won a record 149 gold medals on home soil.
Filipino athletes will participate in all but one of the 40 sports on the Hanoi program.