Senator Francis “Tol” Tolentino on Sunday appealed to Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) to include Filipino athletes as essential workers in the government’s priority list to be vaccinated against the deadly COVID-19 virus.
Tolentino made the remarks as both amateur and professional athletes remain excluded in the “A4 Priority” of the government in its ongoing nationwide vaccine rollout.
The senator made the appeal as the Tokyo Olympics are just a little over two months away from July 23 to August 8 and athletes for the 31st Hanoi Southeast Asian Games have yet to train collectively. The Hanoi SEA Games are set from November 21 to December 3.
“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.”
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 Tokyo.
Marcial already got two doses of the vaccine in Las Vegas and Diaz her first in Malaysia.
A total of 626 athletes, meanwhile, were identified for Team Philippines to the Hanoi Sea Games.
Philippine Olympic Committee President Rep. Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino has earlier announced that ports tycoon Enrique Razon pledged Moderna vaccines for the Philippine Olympic delegation, including administrative staff and media.
“The vaccines are in transit [for Olympics-bound athletes], but the problem is that all of our Olympic-bound athletes are training abroad,” Bambol said.
“We will try to contact our counterparts if it is possible to include our athletes in their countries’ vaccination program.”
Yulo and Obiena have been training in Japan and Italy, respectively, for more than a year now while the boxers are in Thailand.
The POC president also allotted a $40,000 grant from the Olympic Council of Asia for the inoculation of the SEA Games-bound athletes.
The senator also stressed that professional athletes in the Philippine Basketball Association and other professional leagues—regardless of sport—should also be included in the A4 Priority of the IATF.
The IATF earlier approved PBA’s request to hold full practices and scrimmages in areas placed under General Community Quarantine (GCQ) or Moderate GCQ.