IF a vaccine against the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) becomes available this year, Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) President Abraham Tolentino said he would definitely fight for its allocation for national athletes, who will be competing for the country in next year’s Summer Olympics.
Tolentino, who is also a representative of Tagaytay City, told reporters on Tuesday during the first Philippine Sportswriters Association online forum on Zoom that he would ask the House of Representatives to prioritize athletes once the vaccine is ready for manufacturing.
“Ilalaban natin ‘yon. Merong allocations ‘yan (We will fight for it. There are allocations for vaccines.) We will prioritize sports, of course, because of the Olympics, but, so far, wala pang guidelines dun (there are still no guidelines),” said Tolentino. “But we can lobby for that [in Congress] because of [the] Olympics.”
“Iilan lang ‘yon if based lang sa number of delegates and all qualified athletes. Hindi natin pababayaan ‘yung mga athletes. So, pupunta tayo doon kung talagang merong vaccine (That’s just a limited head count if based only on the number of delegates and all qualified athletes. We’re not going to neglect the athletes. So, we’ll go there if there’s really a vaccine). So, I am sure that our sportsmen will be prioritized because of the Olympics and even extend[ed] ‘yan hanggang (until the) Vietnam SEA (Southeast Asian) Games.”
Although he expects the medicine to be expensive, Tolentino believes private corporations or businessmen will surely bid to acquire the medicine.
“Maraming mag–aagawan diyan. So, diyan na tayo tutulong (There’ll be a lot of competition for the vaccine. That’s where we’ll facilitate its appropriation for athletes),” promised Tolentino.
He also said in the event that next year’s Olympics still get postponed due to the unavailability of a vaccine, the Tokyo Olympics, slated for July 23 to Aug. 8, 2021, will be canceled for good.
“Last postponement na ‘yon. After that, hindi na puwedeng mag-postpone. Cancellation na kasunod niyan (That’s the last postponement. After that, there are no more postponements. Cancellation follows),” said Tolentino. “Hopefully, we’re all praying that early next year or late this year, magkaroon na ng vaccine (there will be a vaccine). That will be the only solution na matuloy (for the continuation of the Olympics).”
So far, gymnast Carlos Yulo, boxers Eumir Felix Marcial and Irish Magno and pole vaulter EJ Obiena are the only Filipino athletes who have qualified for the Olympic Games next year.
Hidilyn Diaz, the 2016 Rio Olympics gold medalist, will still vie for an Olympic slot along with other national athletes.
Tolentino, who is also the PhilCycling chief, announced that he would add 200 more free bikes to the previous 100 bicycles he offered a week ago for the first 100 athletes who apply for one. He extended the application deadline from May 31 to June 15 for athletes who still want to avail of the free bike and headgear.
He also discussed his proposal to the Vietnam SEA Games (SEAG) Organizing Committee to lobby for kickboxing, arnis, obstacle sports and dance sports to be part of the 2021 biennial meet. However, the SEAG Federation has yet to call a meeting to discuss Vietnam’s hosting.
“‘Yung sa SEA Games, wala pang turnover. Nandito pa (Regarding the SEA Games, there hasn’t been a turnover. It’s, technically, still here),” added Tolentino, noting that the Philippines will try to defend the 2019 SEAG overall championship title next year. “Lalaban tayo depende sa sports na lalaruin. Pero do you think hindi sila lalaban (We will be contenders depending on the sports we play. But do you think the Vietnamese won’t fight as well)?”
Tolentino asks all athletes to preserve their fighting chances by staying at home and staying safe throughout the pandemic until a vaccine is ready.