POC working to vaccinate Philippine athletes competing in Hanoi SEA Games

PC president Bambol Tolentino said plans are already underway to vaccinate all Filipino athletes who will be competing in the 2021 Hanoi SEA Games. POC

The Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) will procure COVID-19 vaccines in its capacity as a private entity for members of Team Philippines to the Hanoi 31st Southeast Asian Games.

POC President Rep. Abraham "Bambol" Tolentino made the announcement on Wednesday, just days after the government 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," Tolentino said. "Once they get inoculated, they can train with very little fear of getting infected."

Tolentino said the POC will purchase the vaccine through a $40,000 subsidy from the Olympic Council of Asia.

Ports tycoon Enrique Razon earlier committed to Tolentino Moderna vaccines for the country's representatives to the Tokyo Olympics.

The POC formed a 626-athlete strong delegation that will compete in 39 of the 40 sports in the Hanoi SEA Games program. The Philippine Sports Commission approved of the figures and has started deliberating on the team's funding.

Tolentino also announced on Wednesday POC First Vice President Al Panlilio's appointment as chairman of the sports body's task force on Covid-19 vaccine procurement.

"It would be up to the task force what brand and when to start the procurement process," Tolentino said. "Whichever is the first available vaccine that will be allowed for procurement, we will get. We cannot choose."

The SEA Games are set from November 21 to December 2.

Razon's vaccines, Tolentino said, are expected in late May or early June.

So far, only men's middleweight boxer Eumir Felix Marcial has been inoculated with the vaccine in Los Angeles, California, where he has been training since October last year at Freddie Roach's Wild Card Gym.

The other Olympic qualifiers-boxers Carlo Paalam, Nesthy Petecioa and Irish Magno, gymnast Carlos Yulo and pole vaulter EJ Obiena-have yet to be vaccinated.

PSC Commissioner Ramon Fernandez, who Tolentino named as chef de mission to the Vietnam SEA Games, welcomed the development.

"This is really a very good news for Philippine sports," he said.

Meanwhile, Panlilio thanked Tolentino for trusting him to lead the procurement of the COVID-19.

"First of all, I'd like to express my gratitude, on behalf of all national athletes, to the Olympic Solidarity and Association of National Olympic Committees through the Olympic Council of Asia for their generosity and POC President Bambol Tolentino entrusting me to be the Chairman of the POC's Task Force on COVID-19 Vaccine Procurement," said Panlilio.

"The POC understands how important it is to inoculate our national athletes not just for their physical well-being but psychologically as well. Getting this done at the soonest possible time will allow them to solely focus on their preparations."

Panlilio added he has already formed a group to assist him with this task, composed of Dr. George Canlas, Atty. Billy Sumagui, Bones Floro, and Dinah Remolacio of the POC and we'll also be working with Os Dela Paz, the Chief Procurement Officer of PLDT.

"So to our athletes, we hope you're safe and healthy wherever you are right now. The vaccines will be on the way soon," Panlilio added.