With the major international events drawing near, Senator Francis Tolentino appealed to the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) for Filipino athletes to be deemed as essential during the pandemic and to be prioritized for vaccination.

/ 10 May 2021

In the new and final list of the A4 priority group released by the IATF in April, amateur and professional athletes were not included.

“The athletes should also be prioritized as sports development should be part of the post-pandemic recovery process,” Tolentino said. 

“The physical well-being of our athletes is reflective of the health of the nation,” he added.

The appeal was made by the lawmaker as the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan will take place in July and the 2021 Southeast Asian Games (SEAG) in Hanoi, Vietnam is set for November.

Seven Filipinos—weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz, gymnast Carlos Yulo, pole vaulter EJ Obiena and boxers Eumir Felix Marcial, Nesthy Petecio, Carlo Paalam, and Irish Magno—have so far qualified for the Tokyo games while 82 athletes from 19 sports are trying to secure their ticket in the sporting event.

Among the seven Olympic-bound athletes, only Marcial has been fully vaccinated in Los Angeles while Diaz got her first dose in Malaysia.

With the country being one of the Asian countries barred by Japan due to the spike of Covid-19 cases, Tolentino said that “it would be better if all those Filipino athletes qualified in the Tokyo games be given anti-Covid shots as soon as possible, to prevent any delays in participating on the said sports event.”

According to Philippine Olympic Committee president Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino, Enrique Razon pledged Moderna vaccines for the Philippine Olympic delegation, however, the problem is that the athletes were all training abroad.

“We will try to contact our counterparts if it is possible to include our athletes in their countries’ vaccination program,” Tolentino said.

Meanwhile, a total of 626 athletes will be sent by the Philippines in the Hanoi games later this year and the POC president has allotted a $40,000 grant from the Olympic Council of Asia for their inoculation.

Tolentino added that professional sporting leagues should also be included in the A4 priority group.