POC to buy vaccines for Vietnam-bound athletes


    IN its capacity as a private entity, the Philippine Olympic Committee will procure COVID-19 vaccines for members of the national team to 31st Southeast Asian Games in Hanoi, Vietnam.

    POC President Rep. Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino announced this yesterday, days after Malacanang allowed private companies to secure vaccines for their work force.

    Tolentino also appointed POC First Vice President and basketball chief Al Panlilio to oversee the vaccination program for team members.

    He said the POC has received a grant of $40,000 (roughly P1.9 million) from the Olympic Council of Asia to procure COVID-19 vaccines for both Olympic and SEA Games-bound athletes.

    “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.”

    Ports tycoon Enrique Razon earlier committed to Tolentino Moderna— International Container Terminal Services Inc.—vaccines for the country’s representatives to the Tokyo Olympics.

    The POC formed a 626-athlete strong (entry by numbers) Team Philippines that will compete in 39 of the 40 sports in the Hanoi SEA Games program. The Philippine Sports Commission has approved the figures and started deliberating on the team’s funding.

    “It would be up to the group led by Panlilio to get what vaccine to buy and the process to buy them. Whatever vaccine is available we will get, we won’t choose,” Tolentino said.

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

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

    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, saying: “This is really very good news for Philippine sports.”

    Boxing secretary general Ed Picson said at the PSA forum last Tuesday that he was hoping that the national team training in Thailand would also be vaccinated there since the Thai boxing they had been working out with were scheduled to be inoculated. – Bong Pedralvez